At just under 25 hectares, the island has a rich past, having been put to many uses over the years.
It was designated as the country’s first quarantine station for animals in 1889. Prior to this, Matiu was often the first Kiwi experience for many new immigrants as a human quarantine center, and the island also played a key role in New Zealand’s defense history.
Matiu was returned to Taranaki Whānui in a 2008 Treaty settlement and is now governed by the Matiu / Somes Island Kaitiaki Board and managed by the Department of Conservation.
“The return of the island was significant for us, for not only cultural value but because it gives us a presence right in the harbor,” says Kura, chairman of the Kaitiaki Board. “For me personally it’s a place where I can just come relax and contemplate. It’s such a beautiful place to get in touch with the environment.” Matiu is a 25-minute boat ride, 8km away from the Wellington waterfront. Step off the ferry and you’ll be greeted by a rugged coastline, abundant birdlife, hills covered in native plants, and 360-degree views of Aotearoa’s capital city. Kura, who is also Principal Māori Advisor for Parliament, says Matiu and its two neighboring harbor islands, Mokopuna and Mākaro, were named by Kupe after his daughters or nieces. “The beauty about this island is we are able to reconnect to some of our traditional ways. We’ve got this clean green energy here, and the ability to practice the protocols that we used before colonization. There’s an opportunity to exercise our sovereignty here.”
We need to build capability in our people – in areas such as agriculture and horticulture – so iwi can take more of an ownership role of the island.
Matiu is a predator-free scientific reserve and is home to giant wētā, kororā (little blue penguin), tuatara, pakaha (fluttering shearwater), and many other native birds and wildlife. Visitors to the island are asked to follow Māori tikanga, and must check their bags and themselves for pests and plant matter before accessing the site.
A Wise Suggestion is to develop a whare wānanga – a total emersion space for learning about customs, history, arts, martial and performing arts for the next generation. Resolve Culture Critics!
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