Te Paparahi: the great land, the plentiful place, the foundation
by Kate Waterhouse
If you are a visitor
to Aotea Great Barrier Island, the chances are that no one you meet has
ventured into Te Paparahi. The chances of you venturing there are also
slight. Te Paparahi is the remote forested north of the island, rising
to a height of 526 m at Tataweka, and falling steeply on all sides to a
tortured basalt coastline exposed to the full force of the Pacific
weather. It is very likely the first land that ocean-going waka sighted
on the long sea voyages by early Māori
from Hawaiki, but there is little shelter here.
In 1894, Miner’s Head
on the northwest tip of Te Paparahi was the site of New Zealand’s third
worst shipwreck, when the Wairarapa steamed into it at full speed in
heavy fog with the loss of 121 lives. On the east side, Rangiwhakaea
Bay (Wreck Bay) is an idyllic ring of sandy coves. To
the west, Coppermine Bay is tucked in under Miner’s Head and was the site of
copper mining in the 19th Century. Little remains of this settlement
today, nor of Te Paparahi’s first inhabitants. Kumera pits dot the
ridges above both bays, an indication of the Māori population the area
once sustained. The forests appear intact and would have sustained large
populations of kererū
novaeseelandiae) and kākā (Hemiphaga
ground nesting seabirds along the ridges and on adjoining islets.
The northern part of
Aotea, Te Paparahi forest, covers about 3,310 ha1.
As Sonia Williams wrote in 20122,
Te Paparahi is of significant importance
to Ngati Rehua, it holds taonga and spiritual values that pertain to
mauri (life force) and wairua (spiritual nature/forces/essences) of
people, flora, fauna, land and water.
Te Paparahi is the largest tract of possum and mustelid free forest
in New Zealand and was the last refuge for kōkako
northern biodiversity hotspot
Te Paparahi is not
volcanic, unlike much of the rest of the island. Instead greywacke rock
(about 150 million years old) forms the northern part. Kanuka forest (Kunzea
ericoides) dominate in areas
that have been burned or cleared. Large areas of coastal broadleaf
forest cover the eastern slopes.
Te Paparahi is also
rich in wildlife, and home to black petrel (Procellaria
parkinsoni), Cook’s petrel (Pterodroma
long-tailed bat (Chalinolobus
tuberculatus), chevron skink (Oligosoma
homalonotum) and one of two island
populations of Hochstetter’s frog (Leiopelma
hochstetteri). From 31 December 1982 to 9
January 1983, a 20 strong group from the renowned Offshore Island
Research Group camped at Rangiwhakaea Bay, and surveyed the northeast of
Aotea Great Barrier Island. Many of the resulting publications
documented the area’s natural history for the first time, including the
The Offshore Island
Research Group survey revealed most of the Te Paparahi forests had been
eaten out and severely degraded by the presence of goats and pigs over
Goats were eradicated
from Te Paparahi by 1992, but pigs remain. Hunting requires a permit and
Aotea Great Barrier Island is a significant pig hunting destination
Value of Te Paparahi to the nation
Te Paparahi is New
Zealand’s largest tract of possum and mustelid free forest and is close
to our largest population centre. So why has it not attracted more
attention from the Department of Conservation for protection? Its
taonga are well known to mana whenua and include:
Intact forest ecosystem:
have highlighted the quality
of the ‘Northern Bush’. While the area was affected by fire and forest
clearance, contiguous tracts of the main forest types on the island are
still found in there – montane, upper montane and lowland.
Needles Point at the northern tip of Te Paparahi on Aotea Great Barrier.
Seabird breeding habitat:
The ridges of Te Paparahi would once have
been riddled with seabirds. Today, a few species (black petrel, Cook’s
petrel and possibly little shearwater and grey-faced petrels) are likely
to be nesting on islets and cliffs where predation by feral pigs, cats
and rats is reduced.
forest free of dieback: Difficult access meant that kāuri was
not completely logged out of Te Paparahi. Stands can be seen on
ridgelines to the east of Tataweka - no tracks lead to these trees and
few venture there, making them an important population in the Auckland
Biodiversity site of significance:
In a memo titled
of the Aotea Great Barrier Island Ecological Vision
to the Great Barrier Local Board in 2017,
Auckland Council Ecologist Eru Nathan highlighted Te Paparahi as a
biodiversity focus area for Auckland.
What lies ahead: post-settlement co-governance and bringing back kōkako
Te Paparahi is likely
to be included in the Treaty settlement currently being finalised by the
Maori Trustee. Te Paparahi, like all of Aotea Great Barrier, contains
sites of cultural significance for Ngati Rehua Ngatiwai Ki Aotea. These
may be wahi tapu or sacred sites, or areas used traditionally for
mahinga kai such as titi (muttonbird) gathering.
As the hapu
kaitiaki we expect to be involved in all decision making that affects
indigenous biodiversity, and in particular… in those areas affected by
Appendix 11 lays out the biodiversity protection requirements the iwi is
likely to apply to management of Te Paparahi – which seek to maintain
the mauri of an area through sustainable cultural practices and
protecting indigenous biodiversity from harm.
There is strong
support for the return of kōkako to Te Paparahi. At a hui at Motairehe
in 2012, Hazel Speed of the Kokako Recovery Group confirmed that Te
Paparahi was large enough to sustain an unmanaged kōkako population.
Since that time,
Ngati Rehua has been working to bring about the return of kōkako - a
goal specified in the 2014-2024 Conservation Management Strategy for the
have confirmed the recovery of the forest understory. However, with high
densities of ship rats and feral cats, not only can kōkako not return,
but other species such as Chevron skink, Hochstetter’s frog, kākāriki,
kākā and kererū are also under pressure.
In the early 1980s,
kōkako was still being reported in Te Paparahi. I will never forget
hearing the call of a kōkako floating across a valley in the early
evening behind Rangiwhakaea Bay. Sonia Williams wrote in 2012, “I
remember my aunty telling me she had heard the kōkako that morning on
her way to her favourite fishing spot, only 30 years ago!”
By 1982, a survey found just 12 to14
kōkako concentrated in the valleys on the eastern side of the ridge to
Tataweka. By the early 1990s, the decision was taken to remove any
remaining birds to Hauturu Little Barrier to preserve the genetic
diversity they represented. Only two were found.
North Island kōkako on Aotea were the only known natural
offshore island population and was lost in 1994 when the
last two birds were transferred from Te Paparahi to
Hauturu Little Barrier Island.
Photo: Adrian Lambrechts
Paparahi: Conservation milestones
1972 Consolidated Silver Mining Company bulldozes a track from
Mabey Road to Tataweka.
1980 Hochstetter’s frog discovered in Te Paparahi – one of only
two island populations.
Ogle identifies Te Paparahi as an area of outstanding forest
1983 Control measures begin for feral goats which are devastating
the forest understory.
1984 ‘Northern Block’ is gifted to the Department of Lands and
Survey for a reserve.
1985 Several researchers5,6,7
note the particularly diverse fauna of native lizards, frogs,
kokako and plants.
1986 Goat culling begins in Te Paparahi by Forest Service cullers
and continues until 1992.
1989 First interest in marine protection for the northeast cost of
Aotea Great Barrier.
1993 Chevron Skink Threatened Species Recovery Plan9
identifies west-facing streams of Te Paparahi as strongholds for the
1994 Last two surviving kōkako caught and transferred by boat to
Hauturu Little Barrier.
Goats eradicated from Aotea Great Barrier, shot out of Te Paparahi
in the early 1990s.
2009 Between 2008 and 2009, 18 feral cattle shot out of Te
Paparahi, some remain.
2010 Great Barrier Island State of the Environment Report:
profiles Te Paparahi.
2011 Bring Back Kōkako hui at Motairehe Marae hosted by
Ngati Rehua Ngatiwai Ki Aotea.
2014 Return of North Island kōkako to Te Paparahi included as a
milestone in Department of Conservation’s Auckland Region
Conservation Management Strategy.
2015 Te Paparahi included in the newly created Aotea Conservation
2016 Bring Back Kōkako feasibility study completed by
ecologist Ian Flux for Ngati Rehua, funded by the Department of
Conservation, as input into planning for return of kōkako.
2017 Te Paparahi identified as a biodiversity focus area by
Rangiwhakaea Bay and the northeast coastline.
Forest types on Te Paparahi vary greatly: from the conifer/hardwood
(kauri, kanuka, ponga); to broadleaf assemblages of kohekohe, tawa,
tarairi and nikau; and disturbed forest types with kanuka, manuka, ponga
as well as pohutakawa, kohekohe and fernland. Photo: E Cameron
Tataweka - expert
route finding required
The Department of
Conservation’s advice to visitors makes it clear that the track to
Tataweka is an ‘Expert route’ giving time estimates of eight to nine
hours return. The Burrill Route is named for Max Burrill who gifted
the land to the crown in 1984. The track starts from Mabey Road and
climbs steeply through the regenerating forest of Te Paparahi to the
central ridge and follows through to Tataweka. The Department of
Conservation states that the track is not regularly managed and is
indistinct in some places.
In January 1978,
I undertook the first of many trips into what was known locally as
the ‘Northern Block’. My father had shot goats there in the 1950s
with the Cooper boys of Glenfern. He led us up the old mining track
through head high ti-tree (as we called it then), into the open bush
and stands of massively buttressed pukatea (Laurelia
into Coppermine Bay. From there it was up and out along the sea
cliffs of Miner’s Head on tracks lined with spiky goat-browsed
coprosma, before circling back over Tataweka. At that time, the
summit was grassy and open and home to a herd of about 30 goats.
The next trip saw
us make the full traverse, dropping down from Tataweka through huge
stands of kanuka to a scrap of sand he had seen on an aerial photo
at the base of the ‘Needles’ – in a single day. This was a remote
and magical place where we caught fish, ate paua and wild pork and
camped on the one tiny flat spot above the beach. The trip back via
the east coast through the maze of gullies and waterfalls was epic.
We lost daylight one night and had to camp on a ridge, followed by
many steep sidles and descents through kōkako
country to Wreck Bay (Rangiwhakaea Bay).
Rehua Ngātiwai Ki Aotea Trust. 2013. Hapū Management Plan.
S. 2010. Kokako. In GBICT Environmental News, Issue 23.
A. 2013. An investigation into the population size and
distribution of tomtit and red-crowned parakeet on Mount Hobson/Hirakimata
and the results of five-minute bird counts at four different
sites on Great Barrier Island including Te Paparahi. Report to
the Great Barrier Island Environment Trust.
P.R. & Kenny, J.A. 1985: Geology of north-eastern Great Barrier
Island (Needles Point to Rangiwhakaea Bay), New Zealand. Journal
of the Royal Society of New Zealand 15: 235–250.
A.E. & Cameron, E.K. 1985.Botanical Features of northeastern
Great Barrier Island, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand. Journal of the
Royal Society of New Zealand 15: 251–278.
J.R., Douglas, M.E., & Bellingham, P.J. 1985. The North Island
kōkako (Callaeas cinerea wilsoni) on
northern Great Barrier Island. Journal of the Royal Society of
New Zealand 15: 291–293.
D.G., & Towns, D.R. 1985. A survey of the herpetofauna of the
northern and southern blocks, Great Barrier Island, New Zealand.
Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 15: 279–287.
F.M. & Broome, K. G. 1990. Ecological survey of Northern Bush,
Great Barrier Island 1986/87. Internal report. Auckland,
Department of Conservation, Auckland Conservancy. 86 p.
D. & McFadden, I. 1993. Threatened Species Recovery Plan Series
5: Chevron Skink, Recovery Plan, February 1993. Department of
Conservation Threatened Species Unit.