Kaipupu Point Sanctuary is a special sort of sanctuary called a ‘mainland island’.
‘Mainland island’ habitats (or mainland islands for short) are an exciting area of conservation management, the aim of which is to protect and restore habitats on the mainland through intensive management of introduced species. They are referred to as mainland “island” habitats because they are manageable areas, isolated by means of special pest proof fencing (see the photo above), geographical features, or intensive management.
Eighty million years ago, the landmass that was to become New Zealand broke away from Gondwanaland, setting our islands off on a unique evolutionary path that is still shaping our flora and fauna to this day. The islands of New Zealand became an ark for animals and plants found nowhere else on Earth: living fossils; a land of giants, where birds were at the top of the food chain.
Less than 1,000 years ago everything changed. Following settlers from Polynesia, and then from Europe, New Zealand suffered great losses. Animals were hunted to extinction. Forests were burned and felled. Wetlands were drained and grasslands were grazed and ploughed. Waves of settlers brought with them a range of new animals and plants that quickly became pests.
In response to this catastrophic loss, a national conservation movement was born – one of the most progressive in the world – using New Zealand’s offshore islands as sanctuaries.
Now, many of New Zealand’s most precious native animals survive only on isolated islands where they have escaped the habitat loss and predation by introduced mammals. Using islands as sanctuaries has now become an important part of the New Zealand conservation movement.
A breakthrough came in 1999, when a new type of sanctuary was born – the first of its kind anywhere in the world. This was a fenced conservation ‘island’ on the mainland. This new sanctuary was the 225-hectare Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellington. Instead of being surrounded by water, this “mainland island” sanctuary is enclosed by a unique fence that has been specially-designed to keep out pests and predators.
The sanctuary here at Kaipupu is essentially an island – another “mainland island”.
Mainland islands are subject to continual reinvasion pressure from these pests and predators in surrounding areas, and therefore require an ongoing commitment.
Mainland islands are also a positive step in raising community awareness and support for conservation, as they are typically more accessible than offshore islands.
All community support is valuable, and mainland islands provide a focus for this support, as the long term future of conservation of New Zealand biodiversity depends on the New Zealand public.