Who lives on Hauturu/Little Barrier Island?

Shane McInnes —  06/11/2009

Hauturu/Little Barrier Island diary #2

The residents

When we think of residents we generally think of people, whether it be all the people in the country, the world or Aunty Myrtle and everyone at the retirement home up the road. Hauturu/Little Barrier Island is extremely different in that even over a century a go, people had the foresight to set aside a home for flora and fauna and nothing else.

So what makes this island special? The answer to this would take many pages.  So I’ll give you the watered down but no less special version. Hauturu supports a huge variety of plants, invertebrates, birds and reptiles not to mention both of the country’s endemic bat species.


Kokako on Hauturu/Little Barrier Island

Kokako. Photo: Liz Whitwell, DOC.

Plant communities range from lowland and coastal pohutukawa, through kauri and beech forest and on up into the clouds where the southern rata and quintinia forests, and of course, where the wild things are! Little Barrier’s species also show signs of island gigantism. The nikau and kawakawa show this the best with their huge leaves and berries compared to the mainland.


Hauturu is most well known for its bird species. The hihi, or stitchbird, clung to the life boat for dear life and has survived on this island and this island alone despite the efforts of Austrian naturalist Andreas Reicheck, who went and shot 150 of the birds because they were going extinct and the museums of the world would need specimens. Hihi have since been relocated to other islands and even the mainland, but need to be managed.

Other species that call Hauturu home are tieke/saddleback, kiwi, kaka, kokako, kakariki, rifleman, tomtit, grey warbler, whitehead, and robin, as well as the growing numbers of Cook’s, grey-faced and black petrels.


The island also supports a large number of reptiles, around 14 species in fact! From the small, fast moving shore and copper skinks to the nearly one kilo monster that pre-dates the dinosaur, the tuatara. The extremely rare chevron skink still has a toe hold, as does the Duvaucel’s gecko.


Wetapunga/giant weta on Hauturu/Little Barrier Island

Wetapunga/giant weta. Photo: Liz Whitwell, DOC.

Insects are often neglected and aren’t really referred to as cute and the cuddly like the kiwi or kakapo. Ever tried to cuddle a kakapo? There’s nothing cute about his “love” bites! The wetapunga, or giant weta is the heaviest insect around… anywhere! Where does it live? You guessed it, on Little Barrier. There are a few species of giant weta but we have the biggest and the best.

We have loads of other insects out here and some are only found here. Without these little critters the island would not exist as they are the building blocks of the ecosystem.

So, now you’re roughly up-to-date with what the island’s about and who its residents are we will move on…

The guests

Once again, when you think of guests you think of people coming to visit you. This time you are exactly right! The island has various people coming to visit. Some come to see the residents and are welcomed, like volunteers and researchers, others are not welcomed.

Welcome sign on Hauturu/Little Barrier Island!

Welcome sign on Hauturu/Little Barrier Island! Photo: Liz Whitwell, DOC.

The island is a Nature Reserve, which basically means if you haven’t got a permit you can’t land. Unfortunately, just like the people from the Inland Revenue Department showing up at your door, some people aren’t welcome. These are the people that bring pests to the island in the form of rats, mice, plant seeds or pathogens which could put the whole island ecosystem in jeopardy.

Two of the guests stay on the island year round, and I’m one of them. My name is Shane McInnes and together with Liz Whitwell we are tasked by the Department of Conservation in making sure the island stays the way it is. We also maintain the infrastructure, as well as facilitating researchers and volunteers that come out and stay. Rangers on the island undertake the role for three years or so, giving the island’s management fresh ideas.

What’s next?

The purpose of this diary is to give you an insight into what the rangers do and what’s going on here on Hauturu… Find out more about that in the next Hauturu/Little Barrier Island diary blog post!

Shane McInnes


Due to an affliction called "Islomania", I have spent the majority of my DOC life working on a couple of New Zealand's best islands. I am currently the ranger on Hauturu/Little Barrier Island, where I have lived and worked with my partner Liz for the past 4 years.

8 responses to Who lives on Hauturu/Little Barrier Island?


    Hi Karen

    Sorry for the slow reply, I am having a bit of time to myself after leaving Hauturu/Little Barrier Island!

    Thanks for the congratulations on my photo of Sinbad. I was definitely surprised to win, being an amateur photographer. Unfortunately I have made a decision to say no to all requests for the photo, so I will have to say no to you as well. Good luck with your search for a photo of a kakapo.

    There are new rangers out on Hauturu/Little Barrier Island now, so hopefully some new blog posts about the island will be coming your way soon.

    Cheers, Shane


    Hi Shane, I’ve been following Sirocco’s progress via FB & Twitter, and noticed your beautiful winning photograph of his younger counterpart Sinbad. Congrats!! I’m a wildlife artist and was wondering if you would be kind enough to let me use your lovely photograph as a reference for a painting? Or have any other photos I could possibly use as a reference, I’d love to paint a kakapo at some stage and have been searching for photos – they are elusive, just like the kakapos 🙂 Cheers, Karen.


    Thanks for the reply Shane. Yes I had heard that those two were gone. It must be nice to be able to eat outside, without having to fend off feathery pirates!

    It would be amazing to see the changes to the plant ecology. I hope one day to re-visit.


    Shane McInnes 20/09/2010 at 4:20 pm

    Hi Serra,
    Great to hear that you enjoyed this special place. Not too much weeding around at Pohutukawa Flat these days. We are concentrating on the climbing asparagus on the homestead side. The ecology certainly has changed! There is a thing called “undergrowth” now; lots of plants of all species making weeding even more difficult. Sadly Pidge and Ratbag have since died, just another sign that the island is moving on from the old days.


    Lovely to see the blog. Hauturu has a special place in my heart. I was lucky enough to work there for six months as part of the weed team back in 2003/4, and treasure the photos and memories I have of the island and some of its special characters, such as Pidge and Ratbag! I hope to get back one day and see the difference to the ecology now the kiore are gone (my knees disagree!). Hope all is going well and those rocks at the top slip on P flat whizz safely by…

    Ruud (the Bugman) Kleinpaste 16/08/2010 at 4:15 pm

    love your work… especially your earlier stuff!

    see ya soon


    Nice work Shane and Liz – still my favourite part of the world. Lucky beggars! who’s piccies? they’re great! (Liz?).

    Hope you’re enjoying the cracker weather.

    Oh and for a look at why Hauturu is soooo special, why not check out: