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Island to be restored as 'downtown' sanctuary

22 February 2005

Motuihe Island to be restored as 'downtown' sanctuary

Motuihe Island in the Hauraki Gulf is to be replanted and restored over the next 10 years as a sanctuary for native wildlife on the doorstep of downtown Auckland, Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced today.

"Located just 15km from Auckland, Motuihe Island is one of the region's most popular, accessible and picturesque islands," Mr Carter said.

"Ringed by sheltered sandy beaches and safe anchorages, it is ripe for restoration not just as a sanctuary for kiwi and other species but as a destination where New Zealanders can relax and experience their unique heritage.

"Aucklanders have seen the success of Tiritiri Matangi as a conservation island; Motuihe promises to be a downtown version," Mr Carter said.

Motuihe's restoration is to be a community venture headed by the Motuihe Trust, which was specifically set up for the task in 2000. The trust will work in partnership with the Department of Conservation under a restoration plan signed by the parties on Motuihe today.

Plans for Motuihe include replanting large parts of the 179 ha island with native trees, the restoration of historic features, such as pa sites, and the enhancing of existing wetland areas. Native birds, lizards and insects are to be returned to the island. Initial bird introductions, planned for later this year, are likely to include saddleback (tieke), kakariki and kiwi.

A network of walking tracks will also be built and picnic and camping areas improved. A visitor centre, museum and volunteer accommodation are planned.

Motuihe is free of mammalian pests with cats removed last year and a DOC rabbit eradication programme nearing completion. About 20,000 rabbits have been removed since 2002 with the last rabbit thought to have been killed six weeks ago. Norway rats and mice were eradicated in 1997. Dogs are not permitted on the island.

Few native forest birds remain on the largely grassed island but it is important for coastal birds including the nationally endangered New Zealand dotterel. A national dotterel census in October last year found the population on the island had doubled since 1996.

The Motuihe Trust has already started growing and planting native trees on the island. In the last two years over 28,000 trees have been planted and weed control work undertaken.

Motuihe Trust Chairman John Laurence said the venture offered people a tremendous opportunity to be involved with restoring a predator free island.

“We are always keen to recruit new volunteers to assist with this fantastic project.”

Funding for Motuihe's restoration will come from public and private sources. Mobil Oil has been a significant donor to date.


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