The marine reserve surrounding Goat Island near Leigh, called the Cape Rodney-Ōkakari Point Marine Reserve, was the first no-take marine reserve in the Hauraki Gulf, in New Zealand and probably in the world. It was established in 1975 after a long campaign by scientists at the Leigh marine laboratory.
The idea was first mooted in 1965 by Professor Valentine Chapman who suggested that the scientists needed a place where their scientific equipment was protected and where the fish weren’t eaten.
Chapman wrote to the then Marine Department suggesting that a marine reserve should be established. But they showed no interest in taking action on the basis that there was no legislation on the statute books enabling government to establish a reserve in the sea.
But Chapman wasn’t put off. He simply escalated the issue. He wrote to the Marine Department every month and obtained support from Ngāti Manuhiri, the Marine Sciences Association and the New Zealand Underwater Association. He also held public meetings and addressed school groups. In the end the government passed the Marine Reserves Act 1971 and created the new reserve in 1975.
The marine reserve has been an outstanding success. The abundance of fish has increased substantially and hundreds of thousands of visitors visit each year. It is a place where parents can take their children to see underwater life. It is also a great tourist attraction for visitors to New Zealand.
The reserve has served as inspiration for other marine reserves around the Gulf, throughout the country and overseas. The late Bill Ballantine was a strong advocate for the reserve and he was the driving force behind the Leigh Marine Laboratory for many years.
The rich maritime history of the Hauraki Gulf can be seen in the numerous wrecks still littered around its shores. Perhaps the most famous wreck lies off Moturekareka Island (close to Kawau Island). Here the ribs of the ‘Rewa’ a 3000 tonne, four-masted barque can be seen sheltering the bay. The wreck was bought by Charlie Hansen in 1930 and he had it towed to Moturekareka by an Auckland Harbour Board tug. Reports indicate that the prime purpose Hansen had in mind was to provide a breakwater for his beach but he may also have intended to use the vessel for accommodation and for a cabaret.
According to a 1930 report in the Evening Post, a Mr G Bennett was installed as caretaker of the vessel and he slept onboard. On 2 July at:
“about 2 o’clock in the morning, the barque started to list slightly and there were mysterious rumblings and the sound of falling materials almost continually throughout the night. At about 5 o’clock there was a crash. The bow-line parted with a loud report, and the barque heeled over to her port.”
Bennett scrambled ashore under torchlight and the stranded vessel was left with a 45 degree list.
Charlie Hansen used material from the ship’s superstructure to build a shack on the top of the hill on Moturekareka. He also let visiting yachties, such as Johnny Wray, take pieces. Wray describes his visit to Moturekareka in his book South Sea Vagabonds:
‘To anyone nautically minded his house was a perfect delight. It was built largely from gear salvaged from the ship ‘in his front garden’, as he called it. Lifebelts, binnacles, wheels, flags, shrouds, ropes, rails; in fact everything dear to the heart of a sailor was built into that little home. There was a library there that must have contained every nautical book ever published, a library that would be the heart’s desire of any true sea-lover. A perfect home for an old sailor.’
A Celebration of Our Association with this Remarkable Place