Kaikoura Island


Department of Conservation, Auckland Conservancy and Auckland Regional Council. This 2006 Field survey was undertaken jointly by the Kaikoura Island Archaeological Survey authors, Andy Dodd and Vanessa Tanner with assistance from Judith Grant, Rhonda Morrison, Thomas Emeritt, and Don Prince. Assistance with scale drawings of built structures was provided by Sarah Macready. Comments on historical information were provided by Don Armitage, Graeme Murdoch, and Dave Veart.


Kaikoura Island was purchased in 2004 by the Crown in response to initial lobbying from the New Zealand Native Forest Restoration Trust (NZNFRT) for the purpose of establishing a public reserve. With the bulk of the purchase funds provided by the Nature Heritage Fund, the island was gazetted as a scenic reserve, although administration of the island has been ceded to the recently formed Motu Kaikoura Trust made up of representatives from NZNFRT, Friends of Tiritiri Matangi, and Ngati Rehua. Control of the island was handed over to the Motu Kaikoura Trust in April 2005.

The restoration of Kaikoura is largely intended to be carried out through a programme of weed and pest management allowing the island to naturally regenerate. At the same time it is intended that the island will become a centre for outdoor and environmental education for the youth of Auckland. It is envisaged that the establishment of additional tracks, buildings, and facilities will be necessary for the purposes of both programmes. Accordingly an archaeological survey has been carried out by the Department of Conservation for the purpose of identifying the archaeological resources present on the island, and allowing for their integrated management during the restoration programme.


Kaikoura (Selwyn) Island is a 564.13 ha, roughly triangular shaped island located on the western coast of Great Barrier Island between Port Abercrombie and Man of War Passage. Motuhaku and Nelson Islands continue an island chain off the north-western point of Kaikoura, and the eastern coastline of the island creates the western margin of Port Fitzroy.

The island comprises predominantly medium to steeply graded ridges and spurs, mostly running off the northern and southern sides of a central main ridgeline which connects the north-western and north-eastern points of the island. Rocky outcrops occur frequently along the narrow ridgelines. There is little flat land on the island, and where is does occur is mostly in the vicinity of the artificially levelled airstrip, and the more gently sloping spurs around the farm gully on the southern side of the island.

Kaikoura has in recent time been subject to considerable erosion on the steeper northern slopes exposing large areas of dry red clay, often down to bedrock, a result of uncontrolled grazing by deer, goats and pigs.


Geology is classified as roughly stratified and poorly sorted andesitic breccias, tuffs and agglomerates of Pliocene to Miocene origin (NZMS290 series). Soils are predominantly Fitzroy Hill soils mixed with Barrier steepland soils, clay loam and rocky clay loam, along with smaller isolated areas of Fitzroy clay loam and bouldery clay loam on the central ridge, farm gully and on the tops of the spurs on the northern coastline (NZMS290 series).


Sporadic farm clearing and grazing by deer and goats over the last 150 years has left much of the island devoid of its original forest vegetation. Presently vegetation cover is largely regenerating scrub cover comprising low manuka/kanuka (Leptospermum scoparium/Kunzea ericoides) with large areas of gorse (Ulex europaeus) and hakea (Hakea sericea), and scattered maritime and radiata pines (Pinus pinaster, Pinus radiata). Larger areas of pines have been planted on the south-eastern side of the island in the vicinity of the wharf with occasional gum (Eucalyptus spp.) and macrocarpa (Cupressus macrocarpa). Pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) and coastal natives scatter the coastal fringe, with a few discrete gullies on the southern and eastern coastline containing predominantly native tree species including kauri (Agathis australis), kohekohe (Dysoxylum spectible), taraire (Beilschmiedia taraire), tawa (Beilschmiedia tawa), puriri (Vitex lucens), ngaio (Myoporum laetum), kawakawa (Macropiper excelsum), karaka (Corynocarpus laevigatus), and Ponga fern (Cyathea dealbata). Smaller areas of grassland occur around the airstrip and farm gully.


Archival Search

The New Zealand Archaeological Association Central Index (CINZAS) and Auckland Regional Council Cultural Heritage Inventory (CHI) were searched for previously recorded archaeological, and historic sites. Copies of plans and titles held at Land Information New Zealand were also searched. A review of archaeological and historical publications relating to the general area were undertaken. Great Barrier historians Graeme Murdoch (Auckland Regional Council), Tony Bouzaird (Great Barrier) and Don Armitage (Great Barrier) were consulted, with additional information on recent history provided by George Weck. Research relating to the military occupation of Kaikoura was also conducted by Dave Veart (Department of Conservation). In addition to sources cited in the bibliography the Bob Young archives, and DOC Auckland Conservancy library were searched.

Field Survey

Field survey was carried out from 23-29 October 2005 with an additional site recorded on a subsequent visit 12 December 2005. Site recording was undertaken primarily by Andy Dodd and Vanessa Tanner with assistance from Motu Kaikoura Trust volunteers Judith Grant, Rhonda Morrison and interim island caretaker, Thomas Emeritt.

Field work was initially carried out via pedestrian survey along the tops of ridges and spurs, in the vicinity of stream gullies and mouths, and along the coastal fringe where terrain permitted.

Survey Limitations

Vegetation was in many areas dense and visibility was often severely limited. Consequently survey conditions could be described as poor to fair. While parts of the island were difficult going, most of the island was reasonably accessible.

While the survey was carried out specifically to locate and record archaeological remains, it was limited to visual inspection of surface features. No intrusive investigation was carried out during the survey. As a result additional sub-surface remains may be uncovered during any future earthworks. In the event of any additional archaeological remains being encountered, these should be reported to historic staff at the Department of Conservation.

This survey does not necessarily include the location or the assessment of wahi tapu or sites of spiritual and cultural significance to the local Maori community, who should be consulted independently for any information or concerns that they may have.

Unrecorded Sites

Sites such as wahi tapu and Maori burials, although not considered archaeological, have been given brief mention in this report where their existence has been drawn to the attention of the author. This is primarily as a precautionary measure to ensure that scheduled work does not negatively impact on these places. The nature and extent of these sites has not been investigated during this survey, and Ngati Rehua should be considered the sole authority in this matter. If further information is required on these places, or if work is being scheduled in these areas, advice should be sought directly from Ngati Rehua.


In addition to the three sites previously recorded a further 30 sites were identified during the survey. New Zealand Archaeological Site Records have been completed for each site and are attached as an appendix to this report. Additional copies have been deposited with the Auckland Regional Council for inclusion in the Cultural Heritage Inventory. A brief description Recorded Archaeological Sites

‘Kaikoura Island Archaeological Survey’ Andy Dodd and Vanessa TannerDepartment of Conservation 2006.