• Photo taken from: Kapiti Island Nature Tours
  • Photo take from: Department of Conservation
  • Photo taken from: Kapiti Island Nature Tours
  • Photo taken from: Kapiti Island Nature Tours
  • Photo take from: Department of Conservation

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Kapiti Island

40°52'1" S 174°54'0" N

Lying 5 kilometres (3 miles) off the west coast of the lower North Island of New Zealand (near Wellington) is Kapiti Island, an island nature reserve, rich in endangered wildlife, vegetation and Maori history. The island is the site of Kapiti Island Nature Reserve and adjoins the Kāpiti Marine Reserve. Most of it is in New Zealand Crown ownership.

Running 8 kilometres (5 miles) long and roughly 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) wide, the island was conserved as early as 1870, but it was not until 1987 that the Department of Conservation (DOC) took over the administration of the island.

The island is home to a number of native birds, mostly re-introduced. These include takahe, North Island kōkako, brown teal, stitchbird (hihi), North Island saddleback (tieke), tomtit (miromiro), fantail (piwakawaka), morepork (ruru), weka and North Island robin (toutouwai). The brown kiwi and little spotted kiwi were released on the island between 1890 and 1910, and the island is now the stronghold for the latter species. Rat eradication has led to increases in red-fronted parakeets, North Island robin, bellbirds, and saddlebacks, and the island is considered one of New Zealand’s most important sites for bird recovery, as well as a major breeding site for sea birds.

The island’s vegetation is dominated by scrub and forest of kohekohe, tawa, and kanuka. Most of the forest is regenerating after years of burn-offs and farming, but some areas of original bush with 30 metre (98 feet) trees remain.

In the 18th and 19th centuries Māori settled on the island, and it is from here that the famous chief Te Rauparaha controlled his middle NZ empire between 1830s and 1860s.

The sea nearby was a nursery for whales, and during whaling times 2,000 people were based on the island. ‘Long boats’ were used to chase the whales, and they processed the meat in large ‘blubber pots’ (some of which still remain on the Island).

Access is by approved tourism operators only.

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