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Whakanewha Regional Park
Whakanewha Regional Park is located on the southern coast of Waiheke Island. Map Covering 270 hectares, the park is mainly bush with some mature stands of trees, the large Poukaraka Wetland and a beautiful half moon sweep of shelly and sandy beach sometimes known as Half Moon Bay. The beach is divided towards the southern end by a rocky headland that is the site of the ancient pa.
There are many walking tracks within the park the most notable being the track to the pa site above the beach and the walk to the Cascades. The Cascades are a series of cascading waterfalls, said by some to be behind the naming of the island - Waiheke or falling water. Some claim this is erroneous.
Human habitation at Whakanewha goes back hundreds of years and a pa site on the hill between the two beaches is easily discernible.
Poukaraka Flats, behind the eastern beach was known as Blue Gum Flats when the OBrien family farmed it in the middle of the 20th century. Once a year one half of the Waiheke community played rugby there against the other half.
The land for the park was bought by the Auckland Regional Council in 1993 after a campaign led by then-Gulf News editor Jim Eagles and others, including now-chairman of the ARC Mike Lee and left-wing politico Peter Lee (no relation). The purchase was most unusual in that there were a number of contributors including the Auckland City Council, DoC's Forest Heritage Fund, the Waiheke Community Board and the Hauraki Gulf branch of the Royal Society of Forest and Bird.
The road into the park was sealed in the early 2000s. Its sealing was notable for coming up short because a road width standard from Australia was used, meaning the length of road to be sealed had to be shortened.
The park was only officially opened, by the Prime Minister Helen Clark, in 2006. It had been effectively open to the public, however, for 13 years. Mike Lee's speech at the opening can be read here. The ceremony included the arrival of the waka taua Te Kotuiti.
Its foreshore comprises two beaches, from which you look out to Koi Island and beyond to the city skyline. Just behind the more western of the two sits a large pohutukawa knows locally as the Wedding Tree. The site can be book for $50 for functions, including weddings.
The shell spit near the middle of the beach is also the annual nesting ground for several pairs of the endangered northern New Zealand dotterel.
Only about 1700 of these birds, endemic to New Zealand, remain. A protection society, called Guardians of the Dotterels and manned by volunteers was established on Waiheke to help protect the breeding site. Dogs are prohibited from the beach and beach-users are strongly encouraged to avoid getting too close to the sensitive birds and not to linger near the fenced area where the birds lay their eggs in shallow scrapes in the sand. The birds are very vulnerable to predators such as cats, stoats, hedgehogs and rats and for this reason many traps are set and poison baits laid.
The island's only public campsite is just behind the southern end of the beach at Poukaraka Flats. Bookings for this park can be made by calling the Auckland Regional Council on 09 366 2000 ext 2 and paying by credit card.
The park's resident ranger is long-term islander Andy Spence, who is also these days the ARC's biodiversity officer for Waiheke. Andy has recently been joined by a second ranger Dan Beauchamp who has family connections with Waiheke.