The Island's Time Line

Matakohe has been important to Maori for centuries, situated so strategically in Whangarei-Terenga-Paraoa (Whangarei Harbour, the gathering place of whales).

  • 1700 - early 1800 Kukupa and his sons, Te Ihi and Te Tirarau, held mana whenua over the island

  • 1829  Te Tirarau became paramount chief of Te Parawhau and in 1845 forbade the warring Bay of Islands chief, Hone Heke, to mount attacks on European settlers in Whangarei and Wairoa.

  • 1832  First (European) house in harbour on Matakohe Island, belonging to Mr G.D. Browne burnt by a Waikato war party

  • 1836  Browne returned and erected a flax-pressing plant.

  • 1842  First Trading ship built in harbour by Robert Carruth, a cutter named "Trial". Later used to evacuate settlers. Te Tirarau claimed Matakohe and Motuotawa (Rabbit Island) at the first Maori Court hearing in Whangarei. Later that year the title was transferred (recorded as Crown Grant on 23/12/1865).

  • 1843  Maketu, a Takahiwai chief had huts and plantations on the island. A terraced pa, gardens and drainage lines are remaining evidence of Maori life on the island.

  • 1848  Robert Carruth and Mathew Whitelaw leased the island from Te Parawhau tribe and established limeworks.

  • 1857  Lime works under control of Henry Walton and George Edge. First Edge residence on island (a cottage), built at the southwestern corner behind lagoon.

  • 1858  First Brick Kiln:- thought to be the smaller of two surviving on the island built by Henry Walton.

  • 1864  February 4th, Hannah Edge born to George and Harriet Edge, first recorded European child born on the island.

  • 1865  Walton purchased the island from Te Tirarau and the Parawahau chiefs. Walton had married into Te Tirarau's family. Walton's £70 purchase is finally ratified. With S. Graham he ran sheep on the island and extended the limeworks.

  • 1873  Second Edge cottage built.

  • 1874  First European wedding on the island held on September 17th between John Fraser (stone mason) and Sarah Edge, George Edge's second eldest daughter.

  • 1874  Singlemen's Quarters built.

  • 1876  Island sold to J. A. Edwards of Waikararaka for £300.

  • 1881  Ernest Schaw Rutherford produced the first batch of Portland Cement in New Zealand (and probably the Southern Hemisphere.)

  • 1906-1918  Cement Works became a major industry employing 270 people at its peak. Most of the original buildings were moved to Portland.

  • 1908  Island Post Office established and run by storekeeper.

  • 1911  A Union formed by the workers on the island.

  • 1912/1913  Railway track laid and a German-built steam locomotive bought.

  • 1915  Works re-built after a fire started in the engine room and gutted the factory. Workforce doubled to over 260 in the following three years.

  • 1918  Production on the island ceased. Agreed the Works be concentrated at Portland.

  • 1922  Post Office closed down.

  • 1931  The island sold to Thornburn but the cement company retained mining rights.

  • 1944  Thornburn sold the island to Kamo Colliers Ltd.

  • 1949  Island sold to Fagan's Fertiliser Ltd

  • 1951  Sold to M.A. Frazer.

  • 1965  The island, including the school site sold to the Northland Harbour Board and leased by the Board to the Northern Districts Aero Club for grazing until 1988.

  • 1979  An Army demolition squad blasted and demolished sections of the ruins.

  • 1989  Island gifted to the Whangarei District. At the same time Golden Bay Cement sold its mining rights to the Council for one dollar. First planting of native trees at the western corner of the island.

  • 1993  The Friends of Matakohe-Limestone Island became an Incorporated Society.

  • 1996  David Wright employed as Resident Ranger to look after and maintain the island. A one-room Sunshine cottage purchased with a Lotteries Grant. A 13-foot fryan boat and trailer purchased with assistance from Marine North. Composting toilet built by volunteers for use by Ranger and the Diesel generator purchased.

  • 1997  Northpower wired the cottage and installed solar panels and deep-cycle battery storage.

  • 1998  Golden Bay Cement signed a five-year sponsorship contract with FOMLI to assist with the plan to develop the island as a scenic reserve.

  • 1999  Gazetting of Matakohe-Limestone Island as a Scenic Reserve. Jetty and floating pontoon constructed for public use.

  • 2000  Massive Millennium community planting day - 23,000 plants planted. Tree weta released on the island. The Matakohe-Limestone Island Scenic Reserve Restoration Plan commissioned by FOMLI and completed by Jo Ritchie.

  • 2001  First Kiwi released on to the Island (2 adults - Glen and Helga).

  • 2002  Colin Bishop employed as Ranger. Pest eradication by now well established with noticeable results.  Planting continued each winter.

  • 2003  New Ranger Station built with assistance of the ASB Community Trust and Sunshine Homes. A composting toilet constructed by the cement mill ruins. Golden Bay Cement sponsorship renewed for a further five years. The first Kiwi chick born on the island.

  • 2004  First of a five-year Grey Faced Petrel translocation project begun with help from the WWF Habitat Protection Fund. Small 4-wheel drive vehicle purchased with assistance of Pub Charities.

  • 2005  Purpose-built barge (Petrel III) purchased with help of Pub Charities. Pete and Cathy Mitchell employed to job-share as new Rangers. Weed control extended on to Rabbit Island - initiated with assistance of DOC Biodiversity Condition and Advice Fund. The enduring friendly relationship Te Tirarau and his Te Parawhau hapu established with the settlers formalised in a Memorandum of Understanding between FOMLI, Te Parawhau and neighbouring Ngati Wai.

  • 2006  Wetland project undertaken with financial assistance from the Northland Regional Council - three small dams constructed, Flax Field dam cleaned, stock dam repaired. Reticulated water system installed. A kiwi chick born on the island and named Wilson by Golden Bay Cement staff.

  • 2007  Shore skink from Mimiwhangata translocated to the island thanks to funding from Harbour Restoration Fund. Long-term vegetation monitoring transects established. New tractor and front-end loader purchased with help from Pub Charity. Preliminary report on historic buildings completed by architect, Dave Pearson. Construction begun on an all-tide boat berth with funding from the Whangarei District Council. Composting toilet installed between Ranger Station and volunteer's cabin

  • 2008  Ornate skink translocated to the island. The year in which the 50th kiwi chick raised on Matakohe-Limestone Island was released back to the mainland. Golden Bay Cement sponsorship extended for a further 12 months. Dredging completed for the all-tide berth. Shelter designed by Felicity Christian built and blessed.

  • 2009  Pacific gecko, common gecko and moko skink translcoated to the island. Kate Wilkinson, Associate Minister of Conservation visits for shelter and signage opening.

  • 2010  Ben and Jo Barr appointed as Rangers. First of the translocated grey faced petrel return to the island.

  • 2011  Forest gecko translocated to the island. First confirmed island bred common gecko. Newborn Penny-Kohe joins the Ranger Team

  • 2012  New website launches! Green gecko translocated to the island. Onerahi foreshore neighbourhood included in pest management programme.

  • 2013  With a second little one on the way, Rangers Ben and Jo Barr returned to life on the mainland after a very successful three years on the island. Bernie Buhler appointed as Ranger in February. The 100th kiwi (named Badger) is transferred from the island back to the mainland. Control of the invasive shade tolerant weed, veld grass, started. Major upgrade of the walking track from the Manager's house over the hill to the mill ruins. Rare native hibiscus (Hibiscus richardsonii) planted at selected sites on the island.

  • 2014  Transfer of 50 Suter’s skinks from Hen and Chicks Islands to Matakohe-Limestone. Installation and blessing of the magnificent pou carved by Te Warihi Hetaraka and his team. Introduction of the Adopt-a-Spot scheme. 28 grey faced petrels (oi) translocated from Hen and Chicks island.

  • 2015  Visit Island by Jo Goodhew, Minister for Community and Volunteer Sector to mark the opening of National Volunteer Week. Arrival on island of new replacement off-road vehicle. Tui spotted nesting on the Island. 48 Grey Faced Petrel translocated from Hen and Chicks.

  • 2016  Bernie left, Emma Craig and Jono Carpenter and family commenced ranger duties.