Introduction

Two local people apprehended illegally on Moutohora (Whale Island) in the Eastern Bay of Plenty in June were prosecuted and received court diversion; requiring a donation to the Whakatane Kiwi Trust and payment of costs to the Department of Conservation.

Two local people apprehended illegally on Moutohora (Whale Island) in the Eastern Bay of Plenty in June this year were prosecuted and received court diversion; requiring a donation to the Whakatane Kiwi Trust and payment of costs to the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Moutohora (Whale Island) is a wildlife management reserve, and as such it is an offence for any person to land on the Island without a permit issued by DOC. 

“This recent incident is a reminder that illegal landing on pest free islands is taken seriously by DOC due to threats to flora and fauna from fires and the re-introduction of rodents”, says Whakatane Field Centre Supervisor, Fiona Hennessey.

“All the major bays on the Island are clearly marked with large signs which cannot be missed. The only way to legally land on the Island is through the permitted concession holders – the Whakatane Coastguard (summer months from Boxing Day; bookings are made through White Island Tours) and Tourism Ngati Awa.  Landing permits are not currently issued to the general public” says Ms Hennessey.

Moutohora (Whale Island) was declared pest free following an extensive predator control programme in the late 1980s.  To ensure this status is maintained, all visitors to the Island must undertake a quarantine check before departure. The consequences of rodents or mustelids reaching pest free islands can have a devastating effect on the native wildlife.  The financial cost of returning an island to its former pest free status runs into tens of thousand of dollars.

“By restricting human movement and using preventative measures to reduce the risk of a predator incursion ensures the Island remains a crucial wildlife refuge” says Ms Hennessey.

Background information

Moutohora (Whale Island) is home to tuatara, three lizard species, saddleback (tieke), kiwi and red crowned parakeets (kakariki) that are no longer able to survive on the mainland due to the threat of predators, human disturbance and habitat destruction.  A number of threatened plants now extinct on the mainland are present due to a restoration planting programme.  Low rainfall, lack of fresh water and dry vegetation mean fire is a risk at all times especially in summer.  Fire would destroy vegetation and kill the indigenous fauna, especially insects and lizards.

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