Rights: University of Waikato. All rights reserved. Published 19 March 2014 Download

Researcher Cheri van Schravendijk-Goodman describes the return of the Maurea Islands to iwi. She highlights the ecological importance of the river islands and the need to restore them for the health and wellbeing of the river environment.

Jargon alert
The Ramsar Convention is an intergovernmental treaty that embodies the commitments of its member countries to maintain the ecological character of their wetlands of international importance and to plan for the wise use or sustainable use of all of the wetlands in their territories.


A river island is an island in a river. They can be features that don’t hang around for a very long time, because the river’s really dynamic, and lots of flooding occurs naturally in the Waikato – she’s a big river. So these river islands may only exist for a few centuries and then they disappear because the river will erode them away. But there are some islands that have been around for quite a long time, and our people have relationships with them, really strong historical connections with them. And so we were given back some river islands, the tribe was, under the raupatu river settlement in 2010, and those particular land parcels are now what we’re focusing on for restoration of the river.

There are a group of about six river islands that came back to Waikato-Tainui under the settlement. We are focusing on two that sit just upstream from the Rangiriri Bridge. We call them the Maurea Islands because they’re actually not that far away from Maurea Marae, which is just upstream on the bank. They’re quite important because, unfortunately, when the raupatu happened in the 1860s, the land was confiscated from Waikato-Tainui. These settlements then allow us to try and bring the land back, but they weren’t quite returned in the same condition that they might have been confiscated in.

So we’ve inherited a few liabilities, and some of those are pest plants. These particular islands are important because they sit right near a major stream tributary into Lake Waikare. The stream’s called Te Onetea Stream. The islands are covered in a major pest plant called yellow flag iris. Lovely in your granny’s garden, not so great on the river. They’re highly invasive, they take over habitat that could be used by some of our natives, they make it impossible for some of our birds and fish to be able to live happily

We’re focusing on these islands because they have the potential to provide a source of yellow flag up Te Onetea stream into Lake Waikare and then from Lake Waikare potentially into Whangamarino Wetland. Whangamarino Wetland is actually internationally recognised as being a significant wetland, it’s under Ramsar, so the last thing we want to be doing is looking like we’ve got egg on our face with the international conservation community in terms of how we look after that resource.

Cheri van Schravendijk-Goodman

Dr Beverley Clarkson, Landcare Research

Additional footage supplied by Waikato Raupatu River Trust (WRRT)

The Waikato Tainui College for Research and Development acknowledges the financial support given by the Waikato River Cleanup Trust Fund which is administered by the Waikato River Authority.

The Waikato River Cleanup Trust does not necessarily endorse or support the content of the publication in any way.