What flora and fauna is found on Aotea? (Great Barrier Island)

In recent years, there has been growing interest in the natural biodiversity of Aotea. Though Tiritiri Matangi and Hauturu (Little Barrier Island) are more famous for their conservation, there is an enormous clean-up effort on Aotea (Great Barrier Island) by the local community forming groups and trusts to eradicate toxins to the natural environment and make the island pest free and a place for all forms of life to flourish.

 

What flora is found on Aotea?

The large majority of Aotea is covered in the native bush of New Zealand. The island is abundant with vast wild plantations of mānuka and kānuka trees. Other native trees are also prevalent including kowhai, pohutakawa, totara and many more. Native shrubs such as kawakawa and the rarer kūmarahou are also prevalent. Due to its unique geographical location and the difficulties in developing land on a remote island, most of the flora is first generation and is a major focal point for tourism. Some introduced species are also on the island but the vast majority is New Zealand native bush.

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What fauna is found on Aotea?

 Like the rest of rural New Zealand, the primary fauna you might see on Aotea (Great Barrier Island) include birds, insects and fish.

 Birds that roost on Aotea include thrushes, blackbirds, chaffinches, goldfinches, hedge-sparrows, yellow-hammers, larks, and house, mountain and wood sparrows. Aquatic or semi-aquatic bird species include the Eastern bar-tailed Godwit or Kuaka which migrate 11,000 kilometers over ten to eleven days from Alaska, and Bitterns breeding in the wetlands. Kuaka have a pre-flight fat ratio of about 55% yet they are wasted when they arrive. It is among the most epic long journeys in the world.

 Aotea’s aquatic life is renowned for its shelf fish, fish and whales. By being geographically located on the extremity of the Hauraki Gulf, Aotea benefits from being outside of many commercial and recreational fishing vessels. This means the sea life is more populated than mainland New Zealand. Unfortunately there have been many whale strandings on Aotea. A sperm whale was stranded at Blind Bay in 1972. A series of Longfin pilot whale standings took place at Kawa in 1985. It is theorized that whales whence they find a course will stick to it regardless of beach landings that may stand in the way, leading to strandings.

 Other marine fish include flying fish, sharks and rays, seashells and crayfish. The Freshwater Dart Goby is found in estuaries and shell fish include scallops, oysters, cockles, olive shells, dog-cockles, pipis, and muscles. Fortunately the island population is relatively small compared to the size of the marine landscape meaning there is an abundance of this fauna.

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Sustainability on Aotea for its wildlife and flora.

 There are a number of trusts and conservations projects taking place on our papakainga, Aotea. Whether you call it environmental stewardship or kaitiakitanga, it means adopting an ethos, not just practicing a policy. To learn more about some of the good work people are doing on the island check out www.gbiet.org

Recently the island has become waste free meaning that all material brought onto the island must also be taken away.

 

How do you get to Aotea?

 You can get to Aotea by plane or boat. The plane ride is approximately 25 minutes from Auckland airport and there are a couple of operators that will look after you. The car ferry also runs from Auckland daily and is approximately 4 hours.