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Tiritiri Matangi Island

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Tiritiri Matangi Island
Photograph of saddleback: Paul Cuming

For anyone passing through Auckland wanting to do some birdwatching but with limited time to spare, then Tiritiri Matangi Island is the place to go. Located 30 kilometres (20 miles) north east of central Auckland in the Hauraki Gulf, the island lies 4km off the coast of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula.

Tiritiri Matangi is one of only two Open Scientific Reserves in New Zealand, the other being the Albatross colony at Taiaroa Heads near Dunedin. Tiritiri Matangi Island is a successful partnership between the Department of Conservation and the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi ( Inc ) a dedicated group of volunteers.

There is a well defined network of tracks, including extensive boardwalks constructed by volunteers, directing visitors away from sensitive areas.

The name Tiritiri Matangi in Maori means 'looking to the wind' or 'wind tossing about'. Tiritiri Matangi was an ideal base for early Maori, who exploited the coast for food. The island was settled by the Kawerau-a-Maki tribe, who built the pa (earthwork fortification) from which the island takes its name. Ngati Paoa later established the Papakura Pa.

The island was farmed from the 1850s to 1970s, with farming operations centred around Hobbs Beach. With the building of Tiritiri lighthouse in 1864, the island became the site for Auckland's first lighthouse station. The lighthouse complex is one of only a few surviving lighthouse settlements in New Zealand, and the only one easily accessible to the public.

120 years of farming saw this 230-hectare island stripped of 94 per cent of its native bush but in the ten years between 1984 and 1994, volunteers planted between 250,000 and 300,000 trees. The island is now 60 per cent forested. The remaining 40 per cent will be left as grassland for species such as the Takahe.

In conjunction with this planting programme, all mammalian predators and possums have been eradicated and a number of species of threatened and endangered birds have been successfully introduced.

(page last updated  24 January 2007)