The eight Department of Conservation (DOC) personnel based on Raoul Island in the Kermadec Islands say the 7.6 earthquake that struck at 7.03am on this morning (7 July) was a significant jolt but no one was hurt and no damage has been detected. There are four DOC staff and four volunteers living and working on Raoul Island. Earthquakes are a common on the island.
Raoul Island is 1000 km north east of New Zealand. The 13 volcanic islands in the Kermadecs group are a nature reserve managed by DOC. The 745,000 hectares of ocean surrounding the islands are also protected as New Zealand’s largest marine reserve. This means these waters can not be fished.
Information about the DOC operation on Raoul island
A major part of the conservation work conducted by DOC staff and volunteers based on Raoul Island is eradicating weeds to protect the 113 plants that are native to the Kermadec islands. There are 23 species and sub species of plants that are unique to the Kermadecs. These include the Kermadec pohutukawa, the Keramdec nikau and the Kermadec nettle tree.
DOC staff and volunteers are eradicating weeds such as Mysore thorn which climbs over the native forest and forms a dense smothering canopy. The weed eradication programme is vital for the ecosystems that sustain the rich birdlife on the Kermadecs. The islands are home to 35 bird species, five of which are unique to the islands. Birds found only on the islands include the Kermadec petrel, Kermadec red-crowned parakeet and Kermadec little shearwater.
DOC has eradicated rats, mice, feral cats and dogs that were threatening the Kermadec’s unique birdlife. As a result Kermadec petrels and Kermadec parakeets, that were breeding only on outer islands, are now breeding on Raoul Island again. The pest eradication has also seen the recovery of the Kermadecs as an internationally important stronghold for seabirds ranging from tiny storm petrels to wandering albatrosses which have the largest wing span of any bird in the world. Fourteen species of seabird nest on the Kermadecs with an estimated six million birds involved in breeding every year.
As well as their conservation work DOC staff and volunteers based on Raoul island:
- Run a weather station for the New Zealand MetService
- Monitor seismic and volcanic activity for the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS)
- Collect air samples for the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) which is important in monitoring global warming
- Monitor and maintain equipment for the United Nation’s Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation