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The Auckland Islands Conservation Heritage

Friday 1 February 2002
Media Statement

The Auckland Islands — "a small but significant part of New Zealand's conservation heritage"

Prime Minister Helen Clark and Conservation Minister Sandra Lee leave this morning on a three-day visit to inspect projects to conserve the biodiversity and historic sites on the remote Auckland Islands, 460km south of New Zealand.

The Prime Minister's party is due to sail from Bluff (7am) on the navy frigate Canterbury, accompanied by the navy tanker Endeavour, taking about 16 hours to arrive off the sub-Antarctic island group.

The Auckland Islands contain a huge variety of wildlife. The 46-species of breeding birds present include eight species unique to the Islands, and a diverse range of ecologically significant vegetation—such as 44-species of ferns—also grows there.

The historic artefacts date from 1806 when the Islands were first charted by sealers searching for new fur seal grounds. Incorrect plotting on early charts led to several shipwrecks on the western coastline, and the Islands were regularly checked for castaways during much of the nineteenth century. The islands also contain the site of one of the shortest-ever attempts at colonisation, the town of Hardwicke, established in 1850 by settlers from Britain and abandoned two years later.

"The Auckland Islands are a small but significant part of New Zealand's conservation heritage, " the ministers said.

"Their importance is recognised through their designation as a national nature reserve, as well as having World Heritage status because of their outstanding natural values.

"The government also recognises the importance of the coastal waters around the Auckland Islands as breeding grounds for the New Zealand population of southern right whales which are slowly rebuilding their numbers from near-extinction, and the endemic New Zealand—or Hooker's—sea lion," the ministers said.

The Department of Conservation has a proposal to extend the protection for these whales and other wildlife through the creation of an Auckland Island marine reserve. The proposal will be publicly notified either later this month or in March. The proposed marine reserve would extend over the current marine mammal sanctuary and 12km out to sea.

The ministers will be briefed about some of the major conservation projects underway in the Auckland Islands, including research on Enderby Island, the northernmost of the group, at New Zealand's second largest sea lion colony.

They will be briefed on the on-going feral pig eradication campaign, and on the monitoring in the Islands of returning populations of seabirds as part of research into the impact of the accidental by-catch of seabirds by longline fishing vessels.

The frigate Canterbury and the tanker Endeavour, providing the Navy's annual support for Department of Conservation sub-Antarctic islands activities, will deliver building material to help refurbish an historic castaway boatshed on Enderby Island and replenish a fuel store that provides an emergency supply for medical evacuation helicopters and deep-sea fishing vessels. Timber will also be unloaded on the island for the construction of a boardwalk for the restricted number of tourism visits allowed by the Department of Conservation.

Checks will also be made of the anchorages in Port Ross at the northern end of Auckland Island to see if the highly invasive Asian seaweed Undaria is present.
And, if the weather is suitable, the frigate Canterbury's Seasprite helicopter will land a field hut to provide additional shelter for researchers studying albatross numbers.

At the southern end of the Auckland Islands, an archaeological research group will disembark to conduct a survey of a site used by the survivors of the Grafton, the first recorded shipwreck in the islands, in 1864.


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