Goat Island Marine Protected Area, Leigh, New Zealand 2017

 

The east coast of New Zealand, in the vicinity of Whangarei, has many beautiful areas. Tutukaka Habour, and Matapouri Bay, for example, lie roughly a half-hour drive northeast of Whangarei. South of Whangarei there are a series of small inlets, the township of Leigh marking the most northerly inlet before reaching Goat Island, and farther north again, Pakiri Beach.

 

Below, Matapouri Bay:

 

Below, Pakiri Beach with Little Barrier Island in the distance:

Although there is no township at Pakiri Beach (just a caravan park and a scattering of holiday-houses) it's a popular swimming spot in the summer holidays, and it has its own lifesaver patrol. On this day there were two swimmers and three life-guards. 

 

There are several estuaries along this coast, and some of these are important seabird breeding and feeding areas, with large expanses of mudflats exposed at low tide.

These pretty birds seem destined for extinction, with their population now below 50 adults.

 

Pakiri Beach seemed rather quiet and run-down compared even with Matapouri Bay (which is low-key compared with hamlets closer to Auckland). I like this sort of place.

 

Below, an old park seat, showing its age gracefully...  Several of the caravan park's inhabitants reminded me of this seat...

 

 

The small MPA at Goat Island is one of the oldest and best-studied in New Zealand; in fact in the world. While indigenous cultures in the Pacific, for example, have held special areas protected since time immemorial, a notable feature of the Goat Island reserve is its history of scientific monitoring. It was created in 1975, and covers 518 hectares. Although the reserve is fully protected, unfortunately some poaching does occur, mainly at night (according to locals). I was hoping to see many lobsters; in fact I only saw one.

 

 

Below, Goat Island:

 

The location is very popular with families. Wetsuits and snorkelling gear can be hired.

 

It was late December, and the water temperature was 20 Celcius. I used a 3/2 wetsuit, and got rather cold as I swam around the island in a anti-clockwise direction.

 

 

Above and below, typical shallow-water habitat.

 

The island itself is picturesque, with many small caves at water-level.

 

Although visitors are instructed not to feed the fish, this rule is sometimes disobeyed. The result is that several species of fish (but particularly snapper) watch snorkelers closely.

 

Kelp Snapper 20 second movie 240x426, 480x852  (you may have to wait a minute or so for it to load)

 

 

These small blue fish favour certain ledges and rock shelters by day. They are not evenly distributed across the rocky reef habitat.

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