Introduction to Matakana Island

Matakana Beach and Mauao

Matakana Island Click for Map of Matakana Island (6,000 ha) is a special place for indigenous biodiversity. There are large areas of freshwater and estuarine wetlands, as well as extensive indigenous sand dune communities which extend along the entire length of the island, a distance of 28 km. Coastal sand dunes and freshwater wetlands are nationally threatened habitats.

The island is also classified as a nationally significant geological site. Prior to human habitants, the island would have been covered mainly in coastal forest dominated by kauri, tanekaha, kahikatea, rimu, totara, northern rata, pohutukawa, maire, kamahi, and perhaps hard beech. The main period of deforestation probably coincided with human occupation around 800 years ago, however some forest cover may have survived until as recently as 150 years ago. A low cover of indigenous scrub, shrublands and grasslands would have developed following deforestation, subject to occasional burning. By the late 19th century a sheep and cattle station was established on the seaward strip, however establishment of exotic plantations started in the late 1920s and these now cover most of the dunes, excluding the seaward margin and freshwater wetlands at the northern end of the island.

The diversity of indigenous vegetation and habitats reflects the range of habitats present, including freshwater wetlands, freshwater-estuarine wetland complexes, sand dunes, harbour margins and associated sand spits and high tide roosts, intertidal flats, sand dune communities, unmanaged pine forests on dunes, scarps, and gullies. Over 100 indigenous plant species are known from the island and this list is not exhaustive. Taxa present include six nationally-threatened species including some of the best populations of these species in the Bay of Plenty Region.

Indigenous avifauna are also well represented with 10 nationally-threatened species present. Other threatened fauna known to be present are katipo and long-tailed bat. Very little is known about freshwater fisheries on the island, but any streams, drains or wetlands with unimpeded access to the harbour will have native freshwater fish, including eels, inanga, possibly banded kokopu, and other species.

Threats to indigenous biodiversity include pest animals, pest plants, human activities, off-road vehicles, trampling and disturbance, management of adjacent pine plantations (mainly during harvest and replanting), rubbish dumping, fire, domestic pets, grazing, and drainage. The Tuturiwhatu (NZ dotterel) Protection Project. This is driven and led by the community and is one of the best projects of its kind in New Zealand. There are many funding opportunities for well-planned projects and there are huge opportunities for biodiversity in the long term. (Sarah Beadel – Senior Restoration Ecologist, Director of Wildland Consultants Ltd)