The Island's Amazing Story
Once a strategic pa, then the site of pioneering Northland industry in the 1850s and now a conservation treasure, Matakohe-Limestone Island has a surprising amount of history for a small island!
Right at the heart of the harbour
Sitting in the gateway to the upper harbour, Matakohe and its pa site was of immense importance to local iwi, as a look out and first line of defence. The island was also important for growing kumara, and virtually the entire north face was intensively cultivated into ditch and mounds, creating what would have then been some best growing conditions in the country.
Big business in pioneer NZ
Flax trading, boat building, a shipping company and then a major quarry and cement works are all part of the story of Matakohe-Limestone from the 1830s. This little island was an important part of Whangarei's early industry and played a significant role in the lives of early pioneer settlers.
A new vision for the island
All of this industry and later neglect of course left the island much worse for wear - in 1960s the island was in a degraded state with only a handful of trees remaining. Its main visitors were ships coming into port who dropped off their rubbish to be burnt in the quarantine incinerator located on the island! Enter a group of passionate members of the local community with a vision of seeing Matakohe-Limestone returned to its former glory. This group lobbied hard for the island to become a public reserve and have it restored. In 1989, through the gifting of the island and its mining rights by the Northland Harbour Board and Golden Bay Cement respectively to the Whangarei District Council, a new era of restoration began.