Kaikoura Island I Motu Kaikoura
An open sanctuary promoting wilderness education, ecosystem restoration and public recreation on an offshore island.

Plant flora

Report to the Motu Kaikoura Trust
on vegetation monitoring on the island

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

Grateful thanks to photographer Neil Davies. 
Photos taken December 2006

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. 

P.B. Heenan © Landcare Research 2014

Kunzea ericoides

Situated in the gully behind, and uphill from Top House, on the uphill side of an old dam. The gully is seasonally wet, but would only have running water after heavy rain. The thick canopy is almost entirely kanuka (Kunzea ericoides), with a large pine (Pinus radiata) in one corner.

L.R. Perrie © Leon Perrie CC-BY-NC 3.0 NZ

Shag Palace

Situated in the south facing gully behind the shag colony – also known as Taraire Valley. It has a good canopy of mixed species, but the ground cover was completely eaten out when deer were present. One corner of the plot is rather open, allowing light to penetrate.

 K.A. Ford © Landcare Research 2015

Kauri Ridge

This is a sloping plot on the side of a ridge. The large kauri (Agathis australis) trees were deliberately avoided when laying out the plot, as there was a reluctance to hammer nails into them. Several tall miro (Prumnopitys ferruginea) are within the plot. A sub canopy of silver tree ferns, or ponga (Cyathea dealbata), blocks out a good deal of the light. This lack of light, together with the litter from the fronds, and the thick leaves from a couple of taraire (Beilschmiedia tarairi) trees, limits the amount of seedling growth.

P.B. Heenan © Landcare Research 2015

Deer Drop

This is a sloping plot with a canopy largely of manuka (Leptospermum scoparium), but with some kanuka and a little prickly hakea (Hakea sericea). The only ground cover in 2007 was of species that were unpalatable to deer, largely sword sedge (Lepidosperma laterale) and the small, spiky coprosma (Coprosma rhamnoides).