New Zealand A to Z - Matiu/Somes Island

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:22 pm on 16 July 2015

Matiu Some's Island is the biggest of Wellington Harbour's islands and has a fascinating history.

In pre-European times the island was host to several pā which acted as lookout posts and refuges as well as a way station for people travelling by waka between other pā which surrounded the harbour. Matiu Somes also played a defensive role during both World Wars. They were host to gun emplacements and anti-submarine equipment.

There's a darker side to the island's history. It was the site of detainment camps for people declared "undesirable aliens" during the wars. That included everyone from Tongans with German last names to socialists. One of the most tragic stories is the man known as the Leper of Somes Island.

These days Matiu Somes is owned by Te Ātiawa and serves as a nature reserve administered jointly by the iwi, Department of Conservation and the Matiu/Somes Island Charitable Trust.

Paul Brennan talks with historian Lynette Shum and co-chair of the Matiu Somes Island Charitable Trust Liz Mellish.

Matiu Somes Island in pictures


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