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Matiu/Somes Island to re-open

22 June, 2005

Matiu/Somes Island to re-open

Matiu/Somes Island in Wellington Harbour will re-open to the public during the day from Monday (27 June), although some areas will remain off limits until asbestos roofing has been removed and replaced. The island was closed in late April after flakes of asbestos-containing roofing material were found at a number of sites, including the former animal quarantine buildings and the concrete areas nearby.

After seeking advice from the Department of Labour, the Department of Conservation has decided to re-open parts of the island to allow the public to visit the scientific and historic reserve, says Poneke Area manager Peter Simpson.

Areas where asbestos fibres were found will be fenced and taped off for no entry by the public, but people can safely access to the track around the island, summit area, wharf, plant nursery, information centre and toilets.

“It has been ascertained that these areas are safe to visit.” says Mr Simpson.

Testing had revealed there were no airborne asbestos fibres

The island will be open weekdays daily from the arrival of the first ferry (departing Queen’s Wharf at 10am and Day’s Bay at 10.30am) and the departure of the last ferry from the island at 3.25pm. At weekends the usual visiting hours of 8am to 5pm will be observed.

A further temporary closure is expected during some phases of the clean-up and roof replacement project.

Tenders will shortly be sought for the removal and replacement of the asbestos roofing product from buildings which were used for animal quarantine until 1995, when the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries handed over management of the island to DOC.

Matiu/Somes Island has since become a popular Wellington visitor attraction, where people can check out evidence of the island’s past as a pa site, quarantine station, internment camp and defence post; catch a glimpse of reintroduced tuatara, kakariki, giant weta and forest gecko; and see the results of a long-term native forest replanting programme by Lower Hutt Forest and Bird.


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