Heightened fire risk resulting from a dry, hot start to summer has triggered the restriction of public access to Matiu/Somes Island in Wellington harbour as of 31 January 2015.
To protect public safety and conservation values the island will be closed to the public daily from 1pm until 8am from 31 January 2015 until further notice. Visitors must depart the island by 12:50pm daily. DOC will continue to honour overnight bookings.
DOC Partnership Manager Paul McArthur said “we are aware of the inconvenience that closures may cause but we must put the safety of people and protection of the plants and animals first. The situation will be monitored daily and the partial closure will be reassessed if conditions change.”
The fire risk is rising daily as high temperatures and wind have dried out the grass and the regenerating forest on the island, according to the Wellington Rural Fire Authority. If the dry conditions persist, full closure of the island may be required.
“The isolation of the island would make evacuation extremely difficult and create problems for fire fighters,” says Matiu/Somes island ranger Emma Dunning. “Thirty years of restoration effort could be lost in as little as 30 minutes in these conditions.”
Matiu/Somes Island is home to tuatara, kakariki, North Island robin, giant weta and various seabirds. The island also provides habitat for geckos and skinks and is an important historic site.
While access has been restricted to Matiu/Somes Island, there are many other conservation areas to visit in the Wellington region.
For any questions concerning overnight stays or other issues regarding the Matiu-Somes island partial closure, please contact DOC at +64 4 384 7770.