The New Zealand sub-Antarctic islands consist of five island groups.
- The Snares
- Bounty Islands
- Antipodes Islands
- Auckland Islands
- Campbell Island
They lie in the Southern Ocean south-east of New Zealand, spanning six degrees of latitude, from 47 to 52 degrees south.
Described by the United Nations Environment Program as “the most diverse and extensive of all sub-Antarctic archipelagos”, all five island groups were honoured with World Heritage status in 1998. They are also National Nature Reserves under New Zealand’s Reserves Act 1977. The Department of Conservation (DOC) is charged with protecting and preserving these islands in perpetuity.
Of the five islands, DOC has advised that only main Campbell, main Auckland and Enderby are open to visitors. All other island islets and rock stacks are closed, including The Snares.
Snares Islands (also known as The Snares) are the closest of New Zealand’s subantarctic islands to mainland New Zealand, lying about 100km southwest of Stewart Island/Rakiura.
The Snares is a small island group at 48°01′S 166°32′E / 48.017°S 166.533°E / -48.017; 166.533 approximately 200 kilometres south of New Zealand’s South Island. The Snares consist of the main island – North East Island and the smaller Broughton Island as well as the somewhat isolated Western Chain Islands approximately 5 kilometres to the WSW. As a group of islands, the Snares cover a total of approximately 3.5 square kilometres.
The Snares enjoy a climate that is milder than the other islands of New Zealand’s subantarctic, with a mean annual temperature of 11°C and a rainfall of about 1,200mm a year.
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The Islands enjoy a status of high protection and are rated as ‘minimum impact islands’. Landing on the island is generally prohibited or by special research permit only.
Unlike other sub-Antarctic islands that were greatly affected by the whaling and sealing industry in the 19th century, The Snares remain one of the last near pristine areas in New Zealand. The islands are home of endemic bird species such as the Snares Crested Penguin, the Snares Island Snipe, the Snares Fernbird and the Snares Black Tomtit as well as several endemic invertebrates. North East Island is largely forested and is the world’s premier breeding area for the Sooty Shearwater with up to 3 million individuals being present during the breeding season (November-April). A dangerous reef (Seal Reef) lies ten kilometres to the south of the group. Megaherb communities grow on the two main islands.
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