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Ship wreck trail in Northland?

A wreck trail in Northland? That is the topic of a presentation by Malcolm McGregor, President of the Marine Archaeological Association of NZ at the Conference on Sustainable Tourism to be held in the Bay of Islands between 29 and 31 October.

Malcolm’s investigations indicate that there were at least 39 ships wrecked on the east coast from Bream Head to Great Exhibition Bay, plus the three deliberate sinkings: the frigate ‘Waikato’, ‘Tui’ and of course the ‘Rainbow Warrior’ at the Cavalli Islands.

“The earliest of these was the ‘Venus’ which is known to have sunk somewhere between Cape Brett and North Cape in 1806.”

Divers with local knowledge are being asked for information about any wrecks still visible.

“In Wellington there are at least 28 sites of wrecks with visible remains - including some with largely complete hulls. These are well known to Wellington divers, and the MAANZ’s objective is to create a Martine Wreck Trail around Port Nicholson.

“Our ancestors, both Polynesian and European, relied on the ocean for transport, food, and trade,” he said. “Unfortunately much of the population is blissfully unaware not only of our maritime heritage but also its importance. Each year many relics are lost forever. Members of MAANZ are working together as an Association and also many in their own right to bring about a change.”

Of the 2000 shipwrecks around NZ’s shores, approximately 1200 come under the protection of the Historic Places Act. For any vessel protected under this Act, a permit must be obtained before the site is altered in any way.

The Marine Reserves Act also provides protection for wreck sites. It is administered by the Department of Conservation through which it is possible to obtain a permit to undertake a survey of a wreck within the boundary of a marine reserve.

For some years now Northland divers have talked about the feasibility of a Marine Wreck Trail extending from Tutukaka north as far as the Cavalli Islands. Such a proposal will be discussed in detail at the conference.

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