DOC interns explore Matiu/Somes Island

Department of Conservation —  25/01/2016

By Victoria Ward, Communications Intern

DOC’s summer interns embarked on a two-day adventure in December, taking the ferry across Wellington Harbour to learn about conservation efforts on Matiu/Somes Island.

Spectacular vantage from one of the lookouts on Matiu Somes Island.

Spectacular vantage from one of the lookouts

Part of our time here at DOC involves learning about conservation on the ground (as well as working in our own areas of interest) and this escapade was an opportunity for us to be educated about the special island called Matiu/Somes.

Arriving at Wellington’s waterfront dock on Monday morning, our group was on cloud nine. The day boasted stunning weather already and we eagerly anticipated the adventure.

Mike Rumble, Eastbourne Forest Ranger, took us on a tour once we docked and had been through the necessary biosecurity checks. His knowledge of the histories of the island, conservation work and species was invaluable.

Interns looking across to Wellington from Matiu Somes Island.

Looking across Wellington Harbour

We learnt about historical sites, such as the WWII gun emplacements and the lighthouse. Mike also shared details about the fluttering shearwater re-establishment project. A sound system playing fluttering shearwater calls was installed on the island in 2006, only to be relocated several years later, and ever since the colony has been prospering. One healthy chick was discovered in a burrow in December, in the same burrow (and parents) where a chick was raised and fledged in 2014.

Historic photos of the island illustrate the extensive replanting of native flora and fauna that has taken place since 1980. The Department of Agriculture began replanting in 1981 to reintroduce and restore nature on the island. Pioneering species, such as taupata, ngaio, and harakeke, were first planted, followed by species like totara, rata, and kahikatea. Revegetation efforts are currently in the second stage, with a focus on secondary and tertiary plantings.

Trip highlights after nightfall were watching little blue penguins returning from the shore to their nests, and trekking around the tracks to the tuatara habitat area. The penguins were highly entertaining, especially the way they would wait for a long time before gaining the courage to make a quick dash up the hill. They tag-teamed and only three or so would scurry home at once.

We also walked past tuatara basking on the pathway and observed their prehistoric brilliance at close range which was remarkable.



The next day we explored the edges of the island further and ventured to the trig at the peak. Visiting the maximum security animal quarantine facility (closed since 1995) transported us back in time; it was interesting to take a look through the station that protected New Zealand’s economy for almost a century.

After a one-night stay on Matiu/Somes, we all ferried home knowing exactly why the island has been tagged one of the ‘jewels in the harbour’. The people, the place and the species are special and it reminded us of just how amazing our home is – New Zealand truly is the greatest living space on earth.

(Clockwise from top left) Wellington harbour from the waterfront, view from Matiu/Somes, a fern frond in one of the seedling gardens, and dusk on the island..

(Clockwise from top left) Wellington harbour from the waterfront, view from Matiu/Somes, a fern frond in one of the seedling gardens, and dusk on the island.

We would all like to extend our gratitude to Carolyn Hawe – thank you for making this trip possible through superb planning and organisation. Also thank you to Emma Dunning (Matiu/Somes Ranger) and Mike Rumble (our wonderful tour guide) for sharing your time, knowledge and passion for conservation with us!

You can find out more about the island on the Matiu Somes Island Charitable Trust website.

2 responses to DOC interns explore Matiu/Somes Island


    Wow, amazing photos! Makes me miss New Zealand so much.

    Colin Ryder 25/01/2016 at 8:49 am

    One small point. The replanting was actually done by the Lower Hutt Branch of Forest and Bird. The Department of Agriculture managed the island when the replanting programme was initiated. The Branch also eradicated rats from the island. Overall, a huge effort over a log period of time.