The barge run to Matiu/Somes Island

Don Herron —  15/09/2015

Earlier this month I was involved with the very successful barge run to Matiu/Somes Island in Wellington Harbour. The barge run delivers the supplies and machinery to maintain the island for the 22,000 people that visit each year.

Matiu/Somes Island facilities on a sunny day.

Perfect barge day weather on Matiu/Somes Island

Loaded up

This barge run had a hefty load including two 12-tonne trucks, four DOC utes with trailers, two tractors and a 5-tonne digger.

The vehicles were carrying four new stoves, a new toilet, 72 bags of premix concrete, 20 bags of potting mix, an incinerator, a new BBQ for overnight visitors, a new bench seat and picnic table, two truckloads of gravel, 10.5 tonnes of top course (for filling soft ground so the vehicles  can drive on to the island), and 11 tonnes of track metal.

The loaded up barge on the way to Matiu/Somes Island.

Matiu/Somes Island facilities on a sunny day

None of the vehicles left the island with empty loads either. The vehicles carted off old fire extinguishers, old water pipes, sewage pumps, diesel drums, a generator (no longer needed thanks to the renewable power system on the island), four years of sheep’s wool that will be used as carpet, and two kitchen sinks. Most of this material was recycled to help with the cost of the barge.

Unloading the barge on Matiu/Somes Island.

Unloading the barge

Island power

The last barge run to Matiu/Somes Island was in July 2012. The barge delivered sustainable energy equipment so the island could harness energy from renewable sources, including wind, water and sun. You can even track the summary of Matiu/Somes Island’s real-time energy production.

Barge facts

Want to learn more about bringing in supplies to Matiu/Somes Island? Well, here are some fun facts about the Matiu/Somes island barge days:

  • The weather needs to be calm and clear to sail a barge. The barge typically does two runs from Eastbourne, Lower Hutt to the island.
  • All vehicles and machinery (and humans) are professionally cleaned before they are allowed on the barge. This is to make sure any unwanted stowaways don’t hitch a ride to the island.
  • All vehicles reverse onto the barge except the last truck. This truck drives on so it can tip the top course onto the beach so the other vehicles can drive onto the island.
  • There are regular breaks to keep everyone sharp. Morning tea was coffee, and pikelets with raspberry jam and cream – freshly made that morning.
  • The team installed four (safer) new gas ovens for the rangers’ houses and the two bookable overnight houses available for the public.
  • The digger is used to unload the trucks and help load the recycling. It has to be on rubber tracks so it doesn’t damage any surface on the island.
  • There was coffee, and pikelets with raspberry jam and cream for morning tea. (Yes, it’s on the list twice because the pikelets were amazing.)
Morning tea with DOC staff on Matiu/Somes Island.

Morning tea with the team

Visit Matiu/Somes

Visit Matiu/Somes Island to see all the new equipment for yourself.

Don Herron


Don works in the Poneke/Wellington Department of Conservation Visitor Centre in Wellington city. Don loves tramping, riding his mountain bike, travelling and planting natives in his garden at home.

One response to The barge run to Matiu/Somes Island


    Hey Don, Love the report. We often marvel at how some of the gear on the Island actually gets there 🙂 I had the privilege of being part of the Karo Busters team that were the first to use that brand new BBQ – we cooked at Jo’s farewell lunch 🙂 Love the new ovens too.
    Thanks again, keep up the great work, Linda