Kaikoura Island – ‘Save Our Island’ Campaign

A rainbow blessing touched a campaign to restore Kaikoura Island in the Hauraki Gulf to public ownership.

As the Save Our Islands Trust officially launched its bid on Saturday 8th July 1995 to reclaim probably the largest gulf island in foreign ownership, a double rainbow bridged the waters separating Kaikoura and Great Barrier Islands.

Mrs Whetu McGregor, the trust chairwoman described the rainbow’s appearance as ‘very significant’, saying it augured well for the trust’s attempt to persuade its American owners to sell or give back the island to the people of New Zealand.

Situated in the mouth of Port FitzRoy harbour the 560ha island was sold as part of a share deal during the boom market trading in the mid-1980’s said a trust member, Mr Mike Lee.

He expected the property to be on the market within a month, but the trust has already entered into negotiations with land agents Colliers Jardine, extracting a promise to be given first consideration in any sale.

A two-pronged approach to reclaim Kaikoura was being pursued, Mr Lee said.

Trust members hoped to pursuade the American syndicate to ‘make a gesture of philanthropy’ and gift the land to the New Zealand public.  Failing that, Mr Lee said he was confident the trust could attract sufficient funds to buy it back.

On Friday trust members met the Minister of Conservation, Mr Marshall, to discuss the issue, and conservation officers and representatives from the Auckland Regional Council were on hand during an official welcome from the tangata whenua of Great Barrier, the Ngati-rehua hapu of Ngati-wai.

If successful several options are being investigated as to its ownership; Kaikoura could be part of the proposed Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park, he said.

“We want the public of New Zealand to own this island.  New Zealanders have a deep attachment to their islands, especially the Hauraki Gulf islands”.

Grateful thanks to Whetu and Hillarey McGregor for the use of the photographs.


NZHerald Article 9th February 2003 by Amie Richardson

An idyllic island hideaway is at the centre of a looming spat, with Maori concerned it will be bought by a multi-millionaire foreigner.

Kaikoura Island, in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, features burial grounds and is the traditional home of Ngati Rehua people – and the tribe is preparing to fight its sale to a likely offshore buyer.

The island, next to Great Barrier Island, is the seventh biggest in the Gulf and expected to fetch about $10 million.

The dispute follows controversy and protests over the sale of Young Nick’s Head in Poverty Bay, one of the first landmarks spotted by Captain James Cook’s Endeavour crew.
American John Griffin paid $4m for Young Nick’s Head last August but only after government approval. A high court injunction filed by iwi came too late to stop the sale.
Tenders for Kaikoura Island close on Friday, the day before the America’s Cup is due to begin, and Ngati Rehua claims the high price means the island is bound to go to an offshore buyer.

“When you walk on the island, human bones are still visible in many places,” said Ngati Rehua Trust chairman Mervyn McGee.

“There is strong archaeological evidence of burial grounds, wahi tapu, pa sites, kainga and storage pits. “As the tangata whenua of this island, we want to ensure these sacred sites remain in New Zealand hands in perpetuity.”

A claim was filed with the Waitangi Tribunal by the iwi several years ago for ownership of the island. It claims it was illegally purchased in 1844 by colonial Frederick Whitaker.
The 567ha island, placed on the market last October, is covered in native bush, in which deer and wild pigs roam. It has its own wharf and a 600m airstrip.
Ngati Rehua kaumatua Rawiri Wharemate said the iwi would consider going to the lengths taken by East Coast iwi Ngai Tamanuhiri over Young Nick’s Head if the government did not act on protecting Maori access to the island.

“Those are considerations we will have to make when that time comes but our preferred channel is that the government considers this case and the concerns we have with it.”
Wharemate believed offshore buyers may not realise the cultural significance of the land. “It has a long, long history. Would they have the same feeling about the land? Have the new owners, particularly foreigners, who really don’t know our culture, considered the significance in terms of sacredness around those wahi tapu sites? I would firmly question that”.