The 25 hectare Matiu Somes Island lies in the middle of Wellington Harbour, about 8 Km from the city and 3 Km from Petone. It’s been open to the public for about 9 years now, and although in the past it has been the site of pa, gun emplacements, a lighthouse, quarantine stations for animals and people, a prisoner of war camp, a prison, a hospital for “enemy aliens”, a cemetery and a navy degaussing station, it is currently a reserve dedicated to protecting and enhancing ecological, cultural and historical values. In recent years animal predators such as rats have been eradicated and plants, birds, lizards and weta are being re-established.
It’s a mere 15 or 20 minute ferry ride from the centre of Wellington and offers easy and pleasant walks, some picnic areas and fantastic views. On arrival all visitors must wait in a locked room and inspect their bags for rodents, while Department of Conservation (DOC) staff provide a five minute introduction to the island. Smoking’s banned, except on the concrete area by the wharf as the risk of fire is too great.
I’m amazed to think that in 16 years in Wellington I’ve never visited the island before, but today a group of us set out for a picnic there to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday. It was a glorious day, with sun and pleasant temperatures. Our picnic spot provided views all around the harbour, and the subsequent stroll around the south end of the island rewarded us with plenty of black-backed gulls, which were nesting in some parts, kakariki, skinks and plenty of native plants. We didn’t see any tuatara or wetas, though both are there.
Photos to come — I have about 70 to sort through. Oh, and if you’re reading this but are not a Kiwi, then you might not know that we have no native animals. Plants, birds, insects and fish we have galore, but apart from (possibly) a native rat we have no foxes, bear, squirrels, big cats or any of the other animals which roam other parts of the planet. All animals in this country have been brought here from “overseas”.