Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

The Ruamaahua Islands

The Aldermen Islands. Image - Catriona Mcleod

The Aldermen Islands are more commonly known among Hauraki Māori as the Ruamaahua Islands. They are located 15 kilometres east of Whangamata and consist of nine islands of varying size, which still bear remnants of early Māori occupation.

The late Taimoana Turoa, a former trustee of Ruamaahua and well respected Hauraki kaumātua provided a literal translation of Ruamaahua as “thrust up from the depths” referring to the volcanic origin of this group of rocky outcrops and islands.

These islands are of cultural, spiritual, historical and environmental importance to the Hauraki people. For generations, whanau have been culturally harvesting oi from these islands on an annual basis, up until the 1990s, when concern was raised by birders that the oi numbers were declining.

The islands are classed as “nature reserves” and are managed by the Department of Conservation. They are home to several indigenous plants and animals (e.g. oi) of important cultural, environmental and economic importance to Hauraki Māori. The area around these islands is also rich in kaimoana so is frequently visited by the public for recreational diving and fishing.

The Aldermen Islands, commonly known among Hauraki Māori as the Ruamaahua Islands.
The Ruamaahua/Aldermen Islands

Historical background

In 1959, a Section 438 Trust was established for the benefit of the descendants of Hako, Hei and Marutuahu. Twelve trustees were appointed to the Trust from the respective iwi. Since 1959, several replacement Trustees have been appointed.

Gifting of the Ruamaahua Islands

In 1963, the Crown accorded the islands the status of “Wildlife Sanctuary” with the primary objective at the time of purchasing the islands. In 1968, the Crown made an offer to the Trust to purchase the islands. Although this offer was rejected, the trustees agreed to gift the islands to the Crown under certain conditions, namely:

  • That the Islands be set aside as a specifically named reserve and any change of designation or use be referred back to owners for their consent;
  • That should the Islands be no longer required as a reserve, they would automatically revert back to previous ownership;
  • That the owners be permitted to land on the islands to take muttonbirds and sea-foods under permit by the Trustees.

Subsequently, the gifting was formalised in 1969.