The island called Motutapu is very old and sits majestically in the centre of Auckland’s inner gulf islands. The newest gulf island, the now dormant volcano, Rangitoto, nudges up against it. Motutapu looks out to the outer Gulf and Coromandel and looks in to Auckland’s waterfront and beaches, a 30 minute ferry trip away. Its story is ancient, historic, of both European and Maori settlement, educational, scientific, farming and it’s a story of recent restoration and of renewing its engagement with people.
Motutapu is the Maori name for sacred island. It’s now an incubator for breeding endangered native birds and increasingly is on visitors’ must experience Auckland itinerary. The island is a Department of Conservation ‘Recreation Reserve’ of 1509 hectares. Its base is hard rock, 180 million years old while its neighbour Rangitoto was borne by volcanic eruption just 600 years ago.
The Motutapu project started in 1993 in consultation with other interested groups. Together with Rangitoto, Motutapu represented an exceptional opportunity for ecological restoration close to a metropolitan centre which could contribute significantly to threatened species’ survival in New Zealand.
The island was declared mammalian pest-free in 2011, although possums and wallabies were removed during the nineties. Volunteers have now planted over 100 hectares in 450,000 native trees, a forest that is almost canopy level. Rare and endangered species, as well as unthreatened endemic species, are thriving in the pest-free habitat. The island is now a safe home for a small breeding population of translocated kiwi and takahē – some of New Zealand’s rarest, flightless birds.
The Motutapu Restoration Trust’s work provides opportunities for people of all ages to engage in and be actively involved in conservation and to better understand and appreciate heritage values through the restoration of Motutapu.