The Gulf’s most significant nature reserve is marking its 120th anniversary this month but its history is a chequered one, particularly for Ngāti Manuhiri.
Little Barrier Island was declared a nature reserve on 26 September 1895, New Zealand’s first such sanctuary.
However the island was appropriated a year earlier. With much of the Northland coast cleared of kauri the Government of the day established the Little Barrier Purchase Act to force the sale of Te Hauturu- ō-Toi from its Māori owners.
This history is acknowledged in the Ngāti Manuhiri Claims Settlement Act 2012. The Crown issued a formal apology for these and other historical actions which left the tribe virtually landless. The settlement recognised Ngāti Manuhiri as mana whenua and kaitiaki of Hauturu, vesting 1.4ha into its ownership to re-erect their original marae and dwellings, left burnt and ransacked after the eviction. The island was placed under the guardianship of Ngāti Manuhiri for seven days then gifted to the people of New Zealand.
Today Te Hauturu- ō-Toi/Little Barrier is managed by the Department of Conservation as a nature reserve, according to Ngāti Manuhiri values, protection principles and agreed actions.
The island has one of the highest levels of fauna species diversity for forest habitat in New Zealand and is a taonga of international significance. Conservation work is assisted by the Little Barrier Island (Hauturu) Supporters’ Trust.