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Motu manawa (Pollen Island) Marine Reserve

The Motu Manawa Marine Reserve protects some 500 hectares of the inner reaches of Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour. It includes the intertidal mudflats, tidal channels, mangrove swamp, saltmarsh, and shellbanks surrounding Pollen and Traherne Islands.


The intertidal flats to the west of Pollen Island are probably the best example of mangrove and saltmarsh habitat in the Waitemata Harbour and are rich feeding grounds for white faced herons, pukeko, spotless crake and the endangered banded rail.These wetlands are equally important for several non-waders,
including kingfisher and fernbird.

The shy fernbird or matata (Bowdleria punctata) is found in the marine reserve area. It is a weak flier and the few surviving populations in the Auckland area are confined to isolated scrubby salt marshes because the continuous fringe of shoreline scrub and coastal forest no longer exists. The bird, eggs and young are vulnerable to predation by rats, cats and dogs as they nest close to the ground.

The outer flats are regularly visited by red billed gulls, black backed gulls and their mottled brown juveniles, and by two terns. The smaller white fronted tern is usually in small flocks and has a black beak and cap separated by a narrow white forehead band. The larger caspian tern is less common. It has a full black cap and a large bright red bill and is usually only seen in pairs.

Some birds, such as godwits, knots and sandpipers, are international migrants that breed in the north Asian wetlands during the northern spring and summer. They avoid the frozen winter by flying south. Most return to the northern hemisphere in March but a few, too young to breed, remain here over winter. The South Island pied oystercatcher and the wrybill are national migrants. They breed on the shingle beds of South Island braided rivers in spring and fly to northern harbours and estuaries for the late summer, autumn and early winter, making the return journey south in July or August.


The Waitemata Harbour’s sheltered and bountiful waters attracted early Maori settlement. The head of the Whau inlet was a main canoe portage joining the Waitemata and Manukau harbours.


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

The reserve Order in Council.

News article - Ports of Auckland formerly hand over Pollen Island to DoC.

NIWA Study on ecosystem stress at Pollen Island. Sponsors