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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


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This rugged, densely forested island rises steeply from the sea at the northern entrance to Hauraki Gulf midway between Cape Rodney and Great Barrier Island. The peak, frequently mist shrouded, is visible on the northern horizon from Auckland. The island, an extinct volcanic cone about 4 miles across, is deeply dissected by precipitous ravines radiating from Mount Hauturu (2,370 ft). The more gentle lower slopes have been eroded from the eastern side. The coast, roughly circular in outline, is mainly high cliffs fringed by boulder beaches. Toi, the legendary Polynesian explorer, gave the island its name, “Hauturu” (resting place of the winds), and Captain Cook, the more commonly used allusive English name. This andesitic volcano, unrelated to any other volcanic rocks within 75 miles, erupted through the shallow coastal waters of Hauraki Gulf during the last half million years. In more recent geological times of low sea level, the island may have been connected to the mainland. The huge Hingaia Rockfall on the east coast and Te Maraeroa, a boulder-bank flat of 66 acres to the south-west, are landforms of very recent geological times.

The uniqueness of Little Barrier was early recognised by naturalists, who pressed to have the whole island of 7,544 acres reserved as a sanctuary. Parliament enacted legislation (1881–97) to purchase the island from the Maori owners. More than 6,000 acres are virtually untouched by man or browsing animals, thus making the forest a paradise for field research in botany and ornithology. Some plants, abundant on the mainland and neighbouring islands, are absent (for example, rimu, ti, parataniwha). The only predators are wild cats and native rats, neither of which appears to be devastating the bird life. The stitch bird, now extinct on the mainland, is still to be seen on Little Barrier. The giant worm (up to 55 in. long) and the giant weta are found on the island. Only persons holding permits from the Commissioner of Crown Lands have access to the island. There is a resident caretaker.

by Leslie Owen Kermode, B.A., Geological Survey Station, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Otahuhu.


Leslie Owen Kermode, B.A., Geological Survey Station, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Otahuhu.