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Kapiti Island Marine Reserve

The Kapiti Island Marine Reserve is located in the Wellington region. It links the Kapiti Island nature reserve with the mainland Waikanae Estuary reserve. Kapiti Island Marine Reserve is said to contain some of the finest underwater scenery in the Greater Wellington region.


European sealers and whalers travelled the waves to trade on Kapiti and were soon followed by shore whalers who operated from both Kapiti Island and the adjacent mainland. Later farmers took their cattle across the channel to Kapiti. However, the "moat" between the island and the mainland has always helped protect Kapiti's natural treasures from the more devastating effects of introduced mammals.

The Maori people call Kapiti Island Ko te Waewae Kapiti o Tara Raua ko Rangitane. The  name given describes the Island as the meeting place of the boundaries of Tara and Rangitane. Tara and Rangitane were the son and grandson of Whatonga who, in 1150 AD, divided the country by making a boundary from the southern tip of Kapiti Island straight across to the east coast of the North Island. The land to the south he gave to Tara and the land to the north he gave to Tautoki, another son whose heir was Rangitane.

That significant meeting place, first voiced by Whatonga, is still echoed in a dynamic way today by a particular characteristic of Kapiti's waters. Kapiti the meeting place for two major sea currents. It is here that the cold and clear Southland current meets the warm, turbid and more salty d'Urville current. The zone where these two meet swells north and south as one current dominates the other resulting in fascinating overlaps of marine plants and animals.

The waters between Kapiti Island and the mainland were once plied by the mighty waka of Rangitane people, the Muaupoko and later those of Te Rauparaha of Ngati Toa who warred to gain dominance over Kapiti by 1823. This stretch of sea is called Rauoterangi Channel to commemorate the swimming feat of Kahe Te Rauoterangi, daughter of a Ngati Toa chief. Persuaded by a dream she set out from Kapiti, with her daughter strapped to her back, to warn allies on the mainland of a threatened attack. Te Rauoterangi was carried by the current to Te Uruhi, south of the Waikanae River and about 11 kilometres from the starting point. The child survived the crossing but died not long afterwards.

Kapiti today

Today, Kapiti Island, Waikanae Estuary and the marine reserve in between create a very rare continuum of protected land, sea and estuary habitats. The island is known as a sanctuary for kiwi, kaka, takahe, and saddleback and the estuary is a feeding ground for birds and a nursery for a variety of fish. With these two reserves linked by a marine reserve, animals that move between shore, sea and river habitats get special protection. Shags, terns, gulls and penguins roost and breed on land but rely on the sea for food. Native freshwater fish, such as whitebait, lay their eggs in estuarine waters and the young fish are swept out to sea before returning to swim up streams where they mature.




Find out more on the DoC website or check out the following link(s):

Monitoring Blue Cod at the Kapiti Island Marine Reserve. Sponsors