Insider’s guide to marine reserves
New Zealand is a place of endless coastlines and indescribably beautiful harbours and inlets. Dotted around the country are a total of 44 marine reserves, set in place to help preserve, protect and rehabilitate the exquisite marine life around our waters.
The Marine Reserves Act was introduced in 1971, and the first area was set up four years later, and today is known as Goat Island. While fishing, marine farming, research, point discharges, anchoring and other extractions are all banned in a marine reserve, you can still kayak, swim, sail, dive, and snorkel, among other activities, in marine reserves.
Such areas are vital in the preservation of our natural marine life. Here are just a few of the many marine reserves in New Zealand, each of which is accessible on eco tours and day tours from Auckland.
Goat Island, also known as Cape Rodney-Okakari Point or Leigh Island, was the very first protected marine area in New Zealand in 1975. It takes a little over an hour to get to the area from Auckland, making for an ideal day tour.
You can snorkel and swim in the crystal blue waters, or take a luxurious quick trip around the island on a glass-bottomed boat so you can watch the sea life dart about underneath you as a knowledgeable guide shares some of the history of the area.
The Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre is also worth a visit here, as it is full of interesting information about the ocean and marine life, and it even has a tide pool for a closer look at the marine creatures.
Just down the coast from Goat Island is the Tawharanui marine reserve. Even though this area has had a fishing ban in place since 1981, it’s only been an official marine reserve since 2011.
One of the many features that make this marine reserve so special is the greywacke rock, which originates from the Jurassic period and holds fascinating marine fossils throughout these green-grey formations. According to the Department of Conservation, researchers have recorded approximately 50 species of fish in the reserve, while lobster, bottle-nosed dolphins and orcas are not uncommon either.
During a Tawharanui tour, we make a stop here to allow visitors to enjoy plenty of time along this beautiful shoreline.
Other Hauraki Gulf reserves
The Hauraki Gulf is a 1.2 million hectare area of ocean and islands to the east of Auckland. There are more than 50 islands in the area, and a total of six marine reserves.
Goat Island and Tawharanui are two of them, and the other four are: Long Bay, which is near Okura to the north of Auckland; Motu Manawa, which is by Pollen Island in the upper Waitemata Harbour; Te Matuku by Waiheke Island; and Te Whanganui-A-Hei, which is known to locals as Cathedral Cove and is near Whitianga.
Many of these marine reserves are complemented by nature reserves on the nearby land such as those on Great Barrier Island and Rangitoto Island, making much of the Auckland area a region focused on conservation of our beautiful flora and fauna both on land and in the sea.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist