23 Mar 2023

The Noises Islands: Part 2

From Our Changing World, 5:00 am on 23 March 2023

Lifting the burden of rats in the forests of Ōtata Island has allowed life to flourish there: the plants, the birds, the lizards, the insects. But while things have been improving on land, under the water it’s a very different story.  

A man stands in an inflatable zodiac boat pulled ashore in the shallows while a woman stands next to the boat. The pair are looking at the camera and smiling.

Matt Rayner and Severine Hannam at the Noises Islands. Photo: Claire Concannon / RNZ

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Sue Neureuter spent her childhood exploring this island along with her brother Rod and sister Zoe. Her family has memories of abundance: hundreds of nesting seabirds, great big schools of kahawai, kingfish jumping in the bay, plentiful crayfish. But today these are just memories.  

“Now when I snorkel it’s a relief to find things,” says Sue.  

Sue is standing on a gravelly beach. She is smiling and wearing sunglasses.

Sue Neureuter at Sandy Bay on the Noises Islands. Photo: Claire Concannon / RNZ

Ōtata Island is the largest in the Noises Islands group, now owned by the Noises Trust, which the Neureuter family set up in 1995.   

Spurred by the loss they were witnessing, Sue and her siblings reached out to Auckland Council and the Department of Conservation. So, when the Sea Change project was established in 2013 to lay out a plan to reverse decline across the Hauraki Gulf, they became part of the conversations.  

From there, a collaboration developed between the Noises Trust, Auckland War Memorial Museum, and the University of Auckland. Marine surveys confirmed a wide range of underwater habitats – a diversity researchers deemed worth protecting.   

In June 2021 the government released the ‘Revitalising the Gulf – Government action on the Sea Change Plan’ with a wide range of proposed actions to help the Hauraki Gulf, including new high protection zones. In September 2022, another proposed high protection zone was added: a 60km² area around the Noises Islands.  

With Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum, the Noises Trust has also developed a long-term monitoring strategy, so that they can track any changes that happen if the marine area around the islands gets protected.  

Listen to the episode to hear Sue’s stories of loss and hope, plus the work of researchers from Auckland Museum to document the ecology of the Noises Islands.

A man with a beard sits at a white bench with plastic ziploc bags and vials in front of him.

Darryl Jeffries sorting insects at the hut on the Noises Islands. Photo: Claire Concannon / RNZ

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