New Zealand sea lions lying on Sandy Bay
Image: Jo Hiscock | DOC


New Zealand's subantarctic islands are among the world’s least modified environments and home to diverse and abundant animals and plants.

    New Zealand's subantarctic islands are wild and beautiful places. They are home to some of the most abundant and unique wildlife on earth: many birds, plants and invertebrates are found nowhere else in the world. The subantarctic islands are particularly renowned for the large number and diversity of penguins and other seabirds that nest there.

    All the subantarctic islands are National Nature Reserves, the highest possible conservation status. They have also been honoured with World Heritage status, meaning they represent the best of the world’s natural heritage and rate alongside the Grand Canyon and Mount Everest.

    Despite the remote location of these islands the lure to study, visit and preserve the historic fabric on the islands is high.

    Five islands groups

    Four marine reserves

    You can help

    • Keep an eye out for Southland volunteer opportunities.
    • Support sustainable fisheries. Thousands of seabirds are killed each year as bycatch to the fisheries industry. Although these deaths are unintentional it is important that commercial fishing practices improve. Learn more about this issue, and commit to sustainable seafood choices whenever you can.
    • Reduce the amount of plastic you use and dispose of it properly.

    The information on these web pages is largely from the book Subantarctic New Zealand – A Rare Heritage, written by Neville Peat for DOC. We also have an identification handbook on the more common and interesting subantarctic plants. If interested in a copy, contact

    Keep up to date with the work on these fascinating islands in the Subantartic Scribe newsletter.

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