Impact Stories

Impact Stories

The Noises Island Trust

The Noises lie in the outer bounds of the inner Hauraki Gulf Marine Park / Tīkapa Moana / Te Moananui-ā-Toi, approximately 24km north-east of Auckland and 2.2km from Rakino, their closest neighbour. The group of islands and rock stacks have outstanding conservation values, containing some of the best indigenous vegetation of the inner Hauraki Gulf islands. They are also home to a range of invertebrates and reptiles, including gecko and wētāpunga. The Noises provide safe breeding grounds for the highest number of seabird species in the inner Hauraki Gulf.

In 1995, the Noises Trust was formed by the Neureuter family (whose relatives bought the islands in 1933) and the islands were gifted to the Trust, which was created to help ensure the long-term protection of the island group. The Neureuter family’s vision is to protect, conserve and enhance the islands’ unique character, natural beauty and high ecological value. In addition, they aspire to initiate, with Mana Whenua protective measures for the surrounding marine environment.

The Neureuter family have sought to engage with Māori and Iwi at all stages of this project and in an open and authentic way. At the outset (July 2017), engagement with Mana Whenua was a priority for the family. They now understand that achieving protection and restoration of the marine environment, in a fully collaborative manner with Mana Whenua, will take time, as Sue Neureuter explains.

“We have come to better understand the challenges Mana Whenua face – whether in terms of time, resources and/or systems that do not recognise or support Mana Whenua to exercise kaitiakitanga. We are committed to continue to recognise and value Mana Whenua whakapapa, and the additional value mātauranga Māori brings.”

Weaving together mātauranga Māori (traditional Māori knowledge) and science on this journey for marine protection and revitalisation of mauri has been key. Making space for both of these approaches has proved beneficial particularly on the issue of kina barren management and the archaeological excavation of middens on the shores of Ōtata, the largest of the island group. Sue notes that:

“Enabling the sharing of this knowledge has strengthened relationships and enabled deeper understanding for all around the cultural, historical and scientific relevance of the Noises.”

Now partnering with Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland Museum and the University of Auckland, the Noises Islands Trust is entering a deeper and more significant phase of its journey. The project partners have a shared vision to revitalise the mauri of the marine environment surrounding the Noises. Working with Mana Whenua, the partners are focused on identifying solutions to and overcoming barriers to marine protection, using The Noises as an example.

Excavations carried out collaboratively between Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki, Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland Museum and the Neureuter family in March 2020 confirm Ōtata as only the second known site in the Hauraki Gulf with archaeological evidence showing habitation to pre-date the Rangitoto eruption which occurred between 1398–1446. This means that the midden contains evidence of habitation pre-1398.

The first GIFT project to tackle ahu moana / marine protection, The Noises Islands Trust’s project is also an example of how the sequential stages of an endeavour can transition through GIFT’s seed/scale/system framework of granting.



University of Auckland Foundation: Nick Shears, Restoring the Mauri of Rocky Reefs

Dr Nick Shears, Associate Professor in Marine Science at the University of Auckland, is weaving mātauranga Māori with Western science in this collaborative project work to improve the mauri or life essence, of the shallow rocky reefs in Tīkapa Moana Te Moananui-ā-Toi/the Hauraki Gulf.

A shift from thriving kelp and seaweed forests to ‘kina barrens’ in shallow reefs is a key indicator of loss of mauri in the Hauraki Gulf. With a decline in kina’s natural predators (snapper and crayfish), kina populations soar – their large numbers graze on the underwater forests in Tīkapa Moana causing increasing expanses of bare rock known as kina barrens.

Dr Shears has mapped the extent of kina barrens, in hotspots like Hauturu/Little Barrier Island and The Noises, and has documented that barrens have substantially increased in some areas (Mokohinau Islands). Within marine-protected areas in the Hauraki Gulf, mauri is being restored as the natural balance is being allowed to shift to a decline in kina populations (and therefore barrens) due to the recovery of their predators.

To help accelerate this regeneration, the next steps in Dr Shears’ work will be to develop co-management strategies, in partnership with mana whenua, to actively restore the mauri of shallow reefs as well as address longer-term protection and management. In an approach that is centred around solutions that incorporate mātauranga Māori, several hui have been held with mana whenua, Iwi and community groups and marine scientists to discuss collaboration and share traditional ways of protection and management.

According to Nick, engaging rangatahi in the project is also a key part of ensuring long-term protection once kelp forests have been restored. He believes that through enabling mana whenua rangatahi to experience both pristine and damaged underwater habitats, and by supporting them with Western scientific and mātauranga Māori knowledge, they will become ambassadors to bring about wider mana whenua connection to the project and transfer their knowledge about the moana in meaningful ways. In partnership with Experiencing Marine Reserves and supported by the Bobby Stafford Bush Foundation, in October 2019, rangatahi representing Para Kore ki Tāmaki were invited to attend the Experiencing Marine Reserves Poor Knights Island Snorkel Day, an important step in developing their understanding of kina barrens and how the mauri of the Hauraki Gulf can be restored through marine protection.

“The Poor Knights marine reserve is the most perfect example of an eco-system that I had ever seen. Kina have to hide because the prehistoric looking snapper prowl the forests of kelp and seaweed, eagle rays lay peacefully under foot and the Sandager wrasses have no problem greeting you with a big buck-toothed kiss.”

Koha Kahui-McConnell, Volunteer Snorkel Guide, Experiencing Marine Reserves Snorkel Trip

“The project is allowing us to build stronger relationships with iwi partners and opportunities to weave and share knowledge bases between science and mātauranga Māori. This is essential in co-developing solutions and management plans that aim to restore the mauri of our coastal ecosystems.”

Dr Nick Shears, University of Auckland

Video Credit: Experiencing Marine Reserves and Para Kore ki Tāmaki

Waiheke ki uta, Waiheke ki tai, Waiheke ki tua.
Waiheke from the mountains to the sea and beyond.

Waiheke Marine Project is a collaborative Te Tiriti-based partnership between Mana Whenua (led by Ngā Uri ō Ngāti Pāoa ki Waiheke) and the Waiheke community coming together with a shared interest in protecting and regenerating Waiheke’s marine environment.

GIFT funding of $75,000 was granted to support the overall project and specifically to enable a mana whenua co-led work stream that strengthened project relationships and engagement. The Ngā Uri ō Ngāti Pāoa ki Waiheke group was formed to reaffirm Ngāti Pāoa descendants’ whakapapa and hapū ties to Waiheke Island, to be empowered to engage meaningful and to uphold their kaitiakitanga roles and responsibilities as mana whenua, mana moana.

Building relationships, holding space and a driving commitment to develop a Ngāti Pāoa Ahu Moana Strategy for Waiheke has garnered strong foundations, visibility and leadership. To date, many hui have been held with the wider project working group which has produced an effective co-managed practice where Ngāti Pāoa presence and value add has been transformative and pivotal. A strong theme that has emerged has been the opening of a pathway for their rangatahi to learning more deeply their Ngāti Pāoa kawa and tikanga, and the roles and responsibilities of kaitiakitanga to prosper as future marine leaders. Rangatahi are becoming more and more empowered.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mana whenua and Waiheke community team adapted their ways of working in order to achieve the project goals. With many planned hui unable to take place, the project team shifted to connecting through digital pathways in order to maintain momentum. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the group has seen increasing dedication and participation from Ngāti Pāoa, with whānau taking up leadership roles in project planning groups and decision making. Ngāti Pāoa visibility has also increased, through presence on the Waiheke local radio; in Waiheke Marine Collective promotional videos; presenting at the launch of Tāmaki Makaurau Conservation Week at the request of Hon Eugenie Sage, then Minister for Conservation; presenting to the Hauraki Gulf Forum; and a feature in the State of the Gulf Report 2020 on the importance of the project and the partnership.

Underpinned by the knowledge that success comes from deep relationships with a large diversity of voices and beliefs, the goal of the Waiheke Marine Project is to explore what it means to have “action-based kaitiakitanga of Waiheke Island’s marine environment”.  The success of this partnership between mana whenua, taurahere and tauiwi, i.e. Waiheke whānui could pave the way for future similar marine protection initiatives, demonstrating how genuine community collaboration can enable marine protection and regeneration.  This project could be a world-leading model of an urban island co-managing its land and sea in unison, led by and partnered with indigenous peoples of place.

One of the outcomes of this work was the 3-day Future Search event which brought together 76 stakeholders with diverse interests to brainstorm ways to protect and regenerate Waiheke’s marine environment. The event, which was held at the end of October, was attended by mana whenua, scientists, youth, locals, conservationists, agencies, fishers and boaties, land interests, marine businesses – the intention was to include a wide range of perspectives and knowledge. Over the course of the 3 days, the group discussed finding areas of common ground for marine protection and regeneration and decided on nine focus areas – education, clean water, circular economy, Ahu Moana, co-design of a management framework, giving effect to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, local decision making and collaboration. Action plans will be built around each of these areas, and the participants are encouraging the involvement of the wider community in the project.


Kia Tūpato!
Ka tangi a Tūkaiāia kei te moana, Ko Ngātiwai kei te moana e haere ana
Ka tangi a Tūkaiāia
Kei tuawhenua, ko Ngātiwai kei tuawhenua e haere ana

When Tūkaiāia calls at sea, Ngātiwai are at sea;
When Tūkaiāia calls inland, Ngātiwai are inland

Protect Aotea was granted $25,000 and intends to build a resource hub of all relevant mātauranga Māori, including pūrākau, kōrero tawhito, waiata, whakataukī, and mōteatea, scientific research and data. This information will be available to support the work of the group and in collaboration with others.

“The repository will be digital, however, because some of the mātauranga is tapu it cannot go up on a website for everyone to see. What we are hoping is that it will be a place where information can be utilised in the protection of the moana and or whenua,” said Kelly Klink, of Protect Aotea.

As a hub of critical knowedge, of both past and present, the information will be pertinent to Te Moananui o Toi Te Huatahi, a body of water which includes land areas (islands) within it and Tīkapa Moana Te Moananui ā Toi – Hauraki Gulf. It is hoped the repository will help to build relationships with people within Te Moananui o Toi with relevant knowledge, skills, experience and expertise who support the wider kaupapa.

A key component will be seeking guidance and wisdom from kuia and kaumātua to give advice on all aspects of the group’s activities. The repository will also include historical information of the rohe, as well as extending manaaki to all Māori individuals, groups that are involved in legal proceedings or any related activities.

As the project is still in its development stage, Protect Aotea will hold its first wānanga in December, at which individuals who hold mātauranga moana knowledge, will discuss plans to move forward collectively in the restoration of the moana.

“We have seen many of our people struggling to uphold this practice because of lack of knowledge, funding and backing. We as a Trust want to step into this space and assist those that want to protect Te Moananui o Toi Te Huatahi and to establish a process that other Māori entities can follow.”


Image Credit: Shaun Lee. TNC New Zealand, Auckland, November 2018.


Shellfish beds used to cover around 1,250 km2 of the Hauraki Gulf seabed, providing enormous ecological benefits to the marine ecosystem. Unfortunately, most of these shellfish beds have been lost due to over-harvesting and habitat degradation.

In November 2017, global conservation organisation The Nature Conservancy (TNC) obtained joint funding from GIFT and The Tindall Foundation, to establish The Hauraki Gulf Shellfish Restoration Coordination Group – a coordination mechanism for collective effort towards shellfish restoration goals in the Gulf.

TNC is now joining forces with Foundation North to launch a Challenge Fund (the first of its kind in New Zealand) that has the potential to channel $6 million into scaling-up shellfish restoration efforts to help restore the health of the Hauraki Gulf.

Foundation North has pledged $3 million towards supporting this important work with TNC accepting the challenge of raising a further $3 million from other international and NZ-based donors. Essentially, for every $1 TNC raises from an individual, foundation or company, Foundation North will invest a further $1, up to the $3 million limit.

The focus of this Challenge Fund, (due to launch March 2021), is to support the delivery and implementation of the Coordination Group’s shared three-year Strategic Plan, including the goal to establish at least three new 100-tonne mussel beds by 2022.

“Shellfish restoration is in R and D mode at present, learning what works where – the ideal is to create a plan that has specific restoration goals for the Hauraki Gulf and to influence other efforts nationally and beyond.”

Jonathan Peacey, The Nature Conservancy

Donations secured through the Challenge Fund will be used to support a range of projects, for example, TNC is collaborating with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei to support efforts to restore the mauri of Ōkahu Bay, located close to Auckland city centre, through establishing a new 100-tonne mussel reef.

Establishing a new mussel reef will help restore the mauri of the Bay by improving water quality, stabilising the seafloor and creating a biodiversity hot spot in the hopes of returning mahinga kai to the bay. The project will also involve testing a new mussel restoration methodology of building reefs and is the first time a reef will have been restored/established in a more urban environment.

This project was initiated and is being driven by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei who will provide mātauranga to the project along with strategic thought and on the ground support. This work is a part a ki uta ki tai /mountains to sea restoration initiative which also includes native bush regeneration to the whenua accompanied by a multi-million-dollar storm and wastewater separation project which is currently underway.

“Ngāti Whātua Orākei are always looking at collaborative and innovative ways to right wrongs made in the past which has had a devastating effect on our Taiao in particular Okahu bay and the wider Waitematā. We are thankful and eager to see what positive effects this mussel reef may have in raising the mauri of our bay as a possible test case that could remedy similar issues throughout the wider harbour. Ngāti Whātua Orākei pay homage to those key people and projects that have contributed to the kaupapa over time in particular Richelle Kāhui-McConnell, we are very proud of these efforts and continue to add to the legacy through this project as well as others also currently underway.”

Kingi Makoare, Ngāti Whātua Orākei

For more information email thomas.brzostowski@TNC.ORG

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