Motuihe, a Crown-owned island in the Hauraki Gulf, has long held a special place in the lives of Auckland dwellers. Its past includes three Maori pa, a human quarantine station, WWII prisoner of war camp, and a children’s health camp

Motuihe Island Trust - Header Image

Open to the public, this recreation reserve is the focus of ecological and cultural restoration by the Motuihe Trust, in partnership with the Department of Conservation.

Trust chair, John Laurence, says the restoration plan aims to restore, enhance and protect the island’s native plants and animals, as well as its significant Maori and European historic sites.

Iwi and community participation are key ingredients for the project’s success, he says. ‘What we’re aiming for is a quality recreational, environmental and educational experience for anyone who visits. It’s just a half hour ferry ride from downtown Auckland.’

The job is huge, and relies almost entirely on labours of love. The Trust formed in 2000, and today five trustees and about 25 people working in various sub-committees help keep the restoration plan on track.

Big tasks are controlling weeds, collecting and propagating locally sourced seeds, and then planting them. In 2008 50,000 trees were planted, all with voluntary labour from school children, scout troupes, corporate volunteers and members of the public. About 12,500 hours were volunteered in just one year. ‘We aim to plant 75 per cent of the island, and have done two-thirds of that already,’ John says.

Motuihe has been mammal-free since January 2005, following comprehensive and vigilant animal pest control. That year, 20 saddleback/tieke were transferred from Tiritiri Matangi, another Gulf island, and are breeding strongly. In 2008, 31 red-fronted parakeets/kakariki from Little Barrier Island/Hauturu were released. In 2009, adult little spotted kiwi from Kapiti Island will be brought to range free on Motuihe.

While kiwi have yet to arrive on the island, John says Kiwis for kiwi is providing valuable support for the planting programme. For every BNZ customer who opts to stop receiving paper statements, the Bank donates a native plant to Motuihe’s restoration.

Check out a video of the 2010 of twenty-six little spotted kiwi on our Save the Kiwi YouTube channel.

Size of area under protection

The island is 179 hectares, and located 4.5 kilometres off mainland New Zealand, one of a group of islands covered by the Inner Gulf Islands Ecological District. Most introductions will be from within the ecological district, as well as land on the periphery that would have influenced the island’s biological community before it was modified by humans.

Biggest challenge

The largest challenges, says John, are controlling invasive weeds and educating visitors and boaties not to bring pets or mammal pests to the island. ‘It’s a recreation reserve, so its completely open to the public, and people may unwittingly bring mice, dogs and cats.’

While funding is always an issue, he says it is not a challenge. ‘We have lots of $25 public subscriptions, and corporates who give us funding.’ Alongside Kiwi for kiwi, these include the Auckland’s regional and city councils, WWF-New Zealand, Fullers ferries, Project Crimson and the Lion Foundation. A full list is available on the Trust’s website.

Biggest successes

Given that it’s an open sanctuary, John says the Trust’s biggest success is keeping the island pest-free, and also controlling weeds. Planting 180,000 trees is another huge achievement to celebrate.

The one most important thing

John’s one piece of advice to other groups is to have a well-documented programme of action. ‘That way you know where you are headed so that anyone who gets involved knows the intended course and keeps on track. Sometimes in community projects people want to take on their own agendas and own programmes. A clear project plan helps things stay on track.’

Contact details

If you would like to learn more about the trust and its work, or volunteer your efforts, you can contact the Motuihe Island Trust at:


Phone: 0800 668 844 (0800 motuihu)

Postal address: P O Box 42056, Orakei, Auckland 1745