The Bream Head Scenic Reserve is one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s premier coastal forest reserves and is the best example of its type in Northland.
Consisting of the Te Whara ridge, which joins the peaks of Te Whara (476 m) and Matariki/Mt Lion (371 m), it provides a refuge for a diverse range of species brought together in a unique coastal broadleaf forest association including kiwi, kūkupa (wood pigeon/kereru), North Island robin/toutouwai, whitehead/popokatea, kāhu/harrier hawk, threatened invertebrates, bats/pekapeka, several bird species from offshore islands like kākā, kākāriki/red-crowned parakeet, and the bellbird/korimako, and nationally and regionally significant plants.
Te Whara/Bream Head also provides habitat for coastal birds and the most southern mainland colony of the threatened native flax snail – pūpūharakeke.
Te Whara/Bream Head is home to several regionally and nationally significant lizard species. One of these species, the Whirinaki skink, is found at the very top of Te Whara, occupying an area less than 1 ha and found nowhere else in the world.
Seabird populations are also recovering in the Reserve, especially with the first known populations of oi/grey faced petrels returning to the Whangarei mainland for the first time in many years.
Bream Head is nationally important for its ecological, cultural and historic significance. DOC, local iwi, the Te Whara/Bream Head Conservation Trust and the community are committed to restoring Te Whara/Bream Head to the way it probably was before the arrival of predators when all species were able to flourish.
This work includes a revegetation programme, weed and pest control.
As predator numbers have dropped, North Island brown kiwi have been released into the area which is now designated as one of the country’s kiwi sanctuaries. It is also a site for the Bank of New Zealand Save the Kiwi Operation Nest Egg program. The vision is for the restoration work to continue, resulting in an increase in the numbers and variety of native flora and fauna.
Te Whara/Bream Head is of special significance to iwi. They regard the mountain Te Whara as an ancestor and consider the whole area, including the tracks passing through as wāhi tapu (sacred places). These mountains were once used as urupā or burial grounds.
Te Whara was the principal wife of the rangatira (chief) Manaia.
It was here that Manaia first met Puhi-moana-āriki, an early ancestor of the Ngāpuhi iwi and cautioned him with the words “Kei whara koe e Puhi i ngā tai e hāruru ana” (You may meet with disaster from the tides that thunder there).
Manaia’s wife is said to have slighted Puhi and was turned into stone. She stands as the projecting up-thrust rock at the eastern-most point of Bream Head, known as ‘Te Wahine iti a Manaia’.
Te Whara track follows the ancient footprints of Manaia, it is a track that is at least 700 years old.
Bream Head Scenic Reserve is at Whangarei Heads, southeast of Whangarei city.