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Te Matuku Marine Reserve

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Te Matuku Marine Reserve / DOC page for Te Matuku Marine Reserve (690ha) protects one of Waiheke Island's largest and least disturbed estuaries and an area outside Te Matuku Bay in the Waiheke Channel. The Royal Forest & Bird Society applied for the area to be protected. The application by the Hauraki Islands branch was made in 1998. It was finally declared a reserve in 2005 and became a no-take zone for life of any sort.

Boats are permitted in the bay and Passage Rock remains an important navigation aid. Dogs are not permitted on the shell spits, where the endangered New Zealand dotterel nests.


Te Matuku Bay is considered important as one of the few remaining pristine estuarine evironments in the Hauraki Gulf that have an equally untouched forest on its shores. Its rich diversity of habitats - from the depths of the Waiheke Channel through broad intertidal mudflats to saltwater wetlands at the feet of the lowland broadleaf forest of Forest and Bird's reserve - is one of its key features and featured strongly in the promotion of the proposal for a marine reserve.

A sequence of plants - from eel grass o the mudlfats through mangrove and salt marsh, to maritime fringing bush and finally up into lowland broadleaf :::forest - is special because such natural successions of changing plant communities are now rare in Northern New Zealand.
The eel grass (Zostera) grows patchily across the lower mudflats and may help stabilise the lower shore. The soft mudflats and intertidal sands of the bay provide habitat for a variety of shellfish such as cockles, pipi and wedge shells, and some seashore snails, crabs and worms.
All provide rich pickings for wading birds at low tide and, as the tide rises, juvenile flounder and mullet move in to feed on this abundant invertebrate marine life in the bay. - Department of Conservation brochure.

The estuary

The estuary includes more than 28ha of sedimentary mudflats and is rich with birdlife. According to the Department of Conservation the following species are present:-

Nesting on the spits:

Variable oystercatcher, Caspian tern and New Zealand dotterel (endangered).

Annual migrants from Siberia:

Godwits, knots, sandpipers and turnstones.

Internal migrants:

Wrybills and pied oystercatchers.

Other coastal birds:

Banded dotterels,white-fronted terns, reef herons and spotless crakes. The rare Australasian bittern, known to Maori as matuku, has also been recorded in the bay.

The shoreline

Species known to inhabit the rock shore and beaches of the bay include snails, chitons, acorn barnacles, small black mussels and tubeworms at the intertidal zone.

Deeper water

Out around Passage Rock itself, in deeper water but with still the find silt bottom typical of the bay, are burrowing polychaetes, echinoids, sea stars, sand dollars and gastropods. Subtidal reefs are home to sponges, anemones and nudibranchs. At the rock itself are found crayfish and snapper.