Kaikōura Conservation at the Hikurangi Marine Reserve

August 11, 2014

Situated off the North-East coast of the South Island 10km south of the township of Kaikōura is New Zealand’s newest, largest and deepest marine conservation area, called the Hikurangi Marine Reserve. Along with the first whale sanctuary and seal sanctuary created by the NZ Department of Conservation, the whole area became protected last Friday, 8th August 2014.

Sperm Whale, KaikouraWith five new customary fishing areas, sustainable recreational fishing regulations and strict preservation rules in the area, this is the result of a 10-year long campaign by a group of locals and agencies collectively called Te Korowai o Te Tai ō Marokura. The name itself can be loosely translated as: the protective blanket (‘korowai’) for coastal Kaikōura (‘Te Tai ō Marokura’).

‘Te Tai ō Marokura’ is a site of great spiritual and traditional importance for the local Ngāti Kurī Iwi (Māori tribe). It is considered the realm of Tangaroa, the god of the sea, and is a cornerstone for local cultural identity. As a marine ecosystem, it is also incredibly significant – for example, of the 79 whale and dolphin species in the world 34 have been sighted in the waters near Kaikōura! The most commonly sighted are sperm whales, but humpback, minke and orca make regular appearances too.

The Kaikōura Canyon Ecosystem

The undersea Kaikōura Canyon is thousands of kilometres long, running north/south along the east coast of New Zealand. A combination of nutrient-rich mountain run-off water, warm East Cape Current waters from the north and colder Southland Current waters from the Southern Ocean all converge off the Kaikōura coast, creating a rich ecosystem for marine mammals and seabirds including Hutton’s Shearwaters (which only breed here and nowhere else in the world), penguins, gannets and over 10 species of albatross.

Fur Seal KaikouraIt’s not all acrobatic dolphins, mighty whales and sea-birds though. This diverse ecosystem includes rare fish, lobster, squid, sharks, rays, fur seals, and rare plant-life too. You can even find a wide range of coral reef species in areas where less sediment settles.

Local Experiences

Aside from whale watching, bird-spotting, coral reef scuba diving and swimming with dolphins, there is plenty to see and do in the area.

If you’re a keen surfer or kayaker—or just a beginner—you’ll find plenty of opportunities to match your skill-level. There are also plenty of beautiful wilderness walks where you can go ‘tramping’ (that’s ‘hiking’ to us British folk) through glorious scenery with mountain valley vistas. But perhaps the most breath-taking way to take it all in is to take one of the local small airplane tours, particularly the unique ‘Wings over Whales’ tour.

Miharotia House

With our knowledge of the local area, we can also help you to unearth the most beautiful accommodation. For example, Miharotia House is a truly stunning hotel with views of the ocean and snow-capped mountains, run by Polly and Trevor Ruiwai (both of Māori descent, bringing a special insight with their local knowledge).

Find out more about Kaikōura.

Find out more about our conservation work and how you can help on holiday.

Interested in conservation? Fancy visiting one of the world’s most staggeringly beautiful protected ecosystems? Talk to me (Paul) by calling 01298 74040 or send me an email to explore@newzealand-indepth.co.uk.