Friends of the Hauraki Gulf

The Hakaimango-Matiatia Marine Reserve Proposal - latest news
21 September 2021

Read the full proposal here.

Latest from DOC

Despite the Auckland Covid lockdown, the Friends of the Hauraki Gulf (FOHG) have been actively working with the Department of Conservation to advance our Hakaimango-Matiatia (Northwest Waiheke) marine reserve proposal. FOHG chair Mike Lee and Secretary Chris Curreen recently met via Zoom with DOC managers to discuss DOC’s Preliminary Preconsultation Review of our proposal, and the next steps in moving the proposal forward.

We intend to formally notify the marine reserve proposal, at the end of our pre-consultation period, which subject to Covid restrictions should be in approximately four week’s time. in about one month’s time. We are amending our draft proposal to include feedback we have had from interested groups and people on Waiheke island and further afield, and also from DOC scientists.

In July DOC appointed Glen Carbines as project manager to oversee the proposal’s progress. Under the provisions of the Marine Reserves Act (1971), DOC is the responsible agency to take over the nation-wide notification process after our Haikaimango-Matiatia Marine Reserve proposal is formally notified.

The Friends Group is rapidly gaining support for the Hakaimango-Matiatia Marine Reserve proposal with a growing number of people on Waiheke and elsewhere who are impatient to see something meaningful done to protect our marine environment, and who are telling us they support this initiative.

We currently have 1,549 contacts on this emailing list.

Also, we do share this e-newsletter on Waiheke’s social media, which potentially reaches a much wider audience:

Waiheke Trading Facebook page - 11,700
Waiheke Community - 10,500
Latines en Waiheke - 7,300
Great Barrier Island - 2,400
Waiheke Island Peoples’ Parliament - 1,500
What’s On Waiheke - 1,500
Waiheke Musicians - 1,500
Mauri o te Moana 1,400
Friends of Rakino - 753
Kahui Creative Network - 280
Waiheke Artists - 132

The Waiheke Dive & Snorkel shop also attaches our email to its letters to its database of a few thousand happy divers. Thanks to
Adam Whatton for this!

If you know people who are keen on marine conservation, help us contact them by forwarding them this e-newsletter, and ask them to SUBSCRIBE HERE. Or they can reach us at

Let’s get the word out!

Parēkareka coming home

A painting of the spotted shag (Phalacrocorax punctatus), found around Waiheke, by John Gould. The painting is dated from somewhere between 1840 and 1848. The spotted shag is considered to be the most beautiful of our native cormorants.

The spotted shag parēkareka is an endemic New Zealand cormorant. There are basically two populations of spotted shags in New Zealand which are considered genetically distinct. The largest population is in the South Island, especially round the Marlborough Sounds. A second population was once common in the Hauraki Gulf and on Auckland’s west coast.

On Waiheke they bred within living memory on Te Whau (Rooster Point), the Needles, Thompsons Point and on Hakaimango Point at the eastern end of the proposed marine reserve.

Spotted shags also roosted and bred in good numbers throughout the nearby Noises Islands and David Rocks. However over the last 45 years they have disappeared altogether from Auckland’s west coast and in the Gulf they have been reduced to a small population on Tarahiki Island near Pakatoa with a small number on Waiheke’s Thumb Point. Their decline has been attributed to deliberate shootings in the past and also from the impacts of over fishing. Also as the only shag to bred on the ground, their eggs and chicks are likely to be very vulnerable to mammalian predators like rats.

Happily efforts to encourage spotted shags back to Otata in the Noises using 3D printed shag decoys is starting to prove successful. This is a fascinating project led by ornithologists Tim Lovegrove and Matt Rayner. This as part of the Noises Islands marine restoration project led by the island’s owners, the Neureuter family in partnership with Auckland Museum and the University of Auckland (image below).

Spot the difference?

The rocky cliffs and embayed islets in the proposed Hakaimango-Matiatia Marine Reserve where spotted shags once lived could also provide additional nesting habitat for these elegant endemic cormorants. They would no doubt appreciate the restored habitat and enhanced food resources of the Hakaimango-Matiatia Marine Reserve.

Spotted shags back on Otata in the Noises. But be warned not all of these handsome birds are genuine. Also the splashes of ‘white guano’ are actually artfully daubed white paint which together with speakers broadcasting taped shag calls are being used to lure shags back to their former roosting/nesting site. Photo by Rod Neureuter

Not just snapper

With 40 years of wide-ranging dive in his CV (as far as the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands), FOHG committee member Sid Marsh is one of the most experienced underwater people on Waiheke Island.

He likes to remind us - and all who are interested in marine protection for greater biodiversity in the Hauraki Gulf - that its not all about tāmure snapper. There are a host of other remarkable species, below, in, above and next to the water

Giant Boarfish (Paristiopterus labiosus - no Māori name known): a demersal reef fish found off northern New Zealand which can reach one metre in length and weigh up to 10+ kg. They can be encountered in schools but are more likely to be found in male-female pairs over sandy areas near the edge of kelp lines in water as shallow as five metres (above, and at top)

Sid Marsh writes, “I heard of a pair in deep water at Tryphena Harbour, Aotea in the 1980s. These didn't last long, being easy to spearfish. There was a pair of long-finned boarfish in the Goat Island Marine Reserve back in the 80’s, and possibly giant boarfish there too. Incredibly unusual and magnificent to see underwater. Possibly a long-lived species but easily wiped out by experienced spearos.”

Interesting that this drawing (above) included in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London in 1871, did not include the fish’s striking skin patterns - though did emphasis its listing among ‘armourhead’ species.

Ngutere, or Ol’ Man Red Moki (Cheilodactylus spectabilis): one-metre long reef fish with striped silver and rufous/black stripes. “This species feeds on benthic invertebrates, including kina and can live up to 90 years of age, although red moki older than 15 years are now exceedingly hard to find.,” Sid writes, The emphasis is his.

Nguture is found throughout mainland New Zealand. “A very distinctive fish for snorkellers (especially novices & children) to enjoy but, alas, is a sitting target for spearos and is quickly cleaned out of areas. Likes Ecklonia and deeper Carpophyllum kelp mosaics with hard reefs and sandy bottoms.”

Which option?

International research has proven conclusively that no-take marine reserves are the most effective way to restore marine ecosystem.

In fact, “A new meta-analysis of previous studies shows that biomass of whole fish assemblages in marine reserves is, on average, 670% greater than in adjacent unprotected areas, and 343% greater than in partially-protected MPAs.”

This from the paper, No-take marine reserves are the most effective protected areas in the ocean by Dr Enric Sala and Dr Sylvaine Giakoumi from the ICES Journal 2018

Bring back the Giants

This is what we once had in and around the the shallow reefs surrounding all the Hauraki Gulf Islands - plentiful hāpuku at the dominant predator fish.

This photo is from Auckland Weekly News 24 July 1913.

The long-term goal of the Hakaimango-Marine Reserve is the return of these giants to our water. It’s entirely possible, if we start now - and have patience to allow nature’s re-generation to work.

Find out more - an invitation

The Friends of the Hauraki Gulf group would welcome any invitations to make an illustrated presentation to any interested community groups.

Please visit our new website for detailed information on the ecological values and the background of this proposal.

We need your help!

Please let us know by email if you know of any people who would like to be added to this emailing list.

We will gratefully receive and acknowledge donations to our cause. All the work has been done, and now we need a little more to get our proposal over the line.

Our bank account details are:

Friends of the Hauraki Gulf
Kiwibank, Oneroa, Waiheke Island

We thank Cyril ‘Squirrel’ Wright a resident on the shore of Te Matuku Marine Reserve on Waiheke’s SE coast, for his letter to Gulf News outlining the extra-ordinary benefits of living next to a marine reserve.

Letters to the editor

On life and living in a marine reserve

Since moving to Koha Bay, which is part of Te Matuku Bay, in 1980 and building my home I've been fascinated by Te Matuku Bay especially the wildlife.

The godwits and dotterels, foraging on the mudflats for crabs and worms, that then retreat to the shell spit as the tide crawls across. Those expanses of mud and mangroves have kept me endlessly enthralled.

Like any body of water the bay changes with the light. It has always been a special place.

Since it became a marine reserve in 2005 wildlife has increased. Seasonally there are more dotterels breeding and Godwits foraging. We now see on each high tide a lot more fish jumping - even visits of kingfish and stingrays. Occasionally a seal. I have seen a huge increase now that it is part of the reserve and a no-take area.

Yes, I do miss catching flounder for breakfast and eating the oysters off the rocks, but the variety and complexity and the dramatic increase of wildlife in the reserves more than compensates.

Te Matuku is an estuary and the water is not as clear as on the north side but going across the reserve in a boat with a fish finder we can see the fish then we see how quickly they drop off when we cross the boundaries of the marine reserve.

The increases in both fish and bird life since the bay haas become a reserve have given us such delight. I don't understand how anyone who loves the environment can oppose a place becoming a marine reserve. We need more of them to redress the balance of nature.

Cyril Wright, Koha Bay (part of Te Matuku Bay)

Splendid and not-so sights

Waiheke’s social media has been buzzing with sightings of kekeno New Zealand fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri) around our coast recently. Perhaps it’s the result of a quieter Gulf in the Covid lockdowns.

Fur seal data specific to Waiheke is sparse. From around AD 1500 fur seals no longer bred on the North Island and inshore islands, having been wiped out by people.

But that excitement about seeing the young kekeno was tempered by the fact that two young ones were found dead on our beaches soon after - evidently from starvation. A sobering reminder of the dire state of the food supply in the Hauraki Gulf. This photo (below) by Lesley Stone.

Fur seals freed from the threat of human hinting are slowly beginning to return to the Gulf, specifically neighbouring Otata Island in the Noises where up to ten seals now haul out over the winter-spring period and, according to Rod Neureuter, one or two are now resident all year round.

NZ fur seals kekeno (Arctocephalus forsteri ) haul out on our neigbouring Otata Island in the Noises – 5km from the boundary of the proposed Hakaimanho-Matiatia Marine Reserve. Free now from human hunting the seals main challenge is food. Photo Mike Lee.

Certainly, mature fur seals are a splendid sight (above); and one that could easily - and soon - be seen at the Hakaimango-Matiatia Marine Reserve.

Quick facts about the Hakaimango-Matiatia Marine Reserve proposal

  • The first new marine reserve proposal in the Hauraki Gulf for 20 years.

  • At around 2,500ha largest marine reserve in the Hauraki Gulf which in one stroke could double the area of the Gulf currently protected.

  • A priority site recommended in a Gaps Analysis and Feasibility Study commissioned by the Waiheke Local Board and published in 2017

  • Located between Matiatia Point (the north head of Matiatia Bay) and Hakaimango (the western head of Oneroa Bay); extends 3km north from Hakaimango;then 4.5km westward to a line 2.1km west of Matiatia, then southward 4.2km, then eastward to Matiatia Point comprising some 2,500 ha.

  • Is a marine ecological transition zone between the outer and inner Hauraki Gulf.

  • Remarkable existing environmental values, a highly diverse, indented foreshore, islets and Miocene fossil bearing cliffs, highly productive undersea rock terraces and kelp forests making it highly suitable for ecological restoration.

  • Important feeding ground for all marine species - including seabirds and marine mammals.

  • Ideal habitat for lost taonga species hāpuku, kōura (crayfish), kekeno (seals).

  • Readily accessible for those who wish to study or who just quietly appreciate the marine environment and the natural world.

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