The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island is an island in the north of New Zealand, situated 88 km to the north-east of central Auckland in the outer Hauraki Gulf. In the Maori language, it is called Aotea, meaning white cloud. Its official name is Great Barrier Island (Motu Aotea).


Physical geography

With a maximum length (north-south) of some 35 kilometres, it protects the gulf from the storms of the Pacific Ocean to the east. Entrance to the gulf is via two channels, one on either side of the island. Colville Channel separates the island's southernmost point (Cape Barrier) from Cape Colville at the northern tip of the Coromandel Peninsula to the south, and Cradock Channel separates the island from the smaller Little Barrier Island to the west.

With an area of 285 square kilometres (110 square miles), Great Barrier is the fourth-largest island in New Zealand, following the South Island, the North Island, and Stewart Island.

Population and communications

It has a permanent population of around 900, primarily in coastal settlements such as Tryphena , Okupu, and Whangaparapara and at Claris and Kaitoke.

There are airfields at Claris (Kaitoke) and Okiwi and natural harbours at Port FitzRoy, Tryphena, Whangaparapara, and Okupu. During the summer there are regular passenger ferries to Tryphena and a regular freight barge service all year to Tryphena and once a week to Port FitzRoy. Aircraft reach Claris' grass airfield in about 30 mins from Auckland airport and Northshore airport while the fast ferries take about three hours from Auckland. The barge service takes approximately 8 hours from downtown Auckland to Tryphena, and returns to Auckland from Port FitzRoy.

The largest settlement on Great Barrier is in Tryphena Harbour, at the southern end of the island.

The population of the island has decreased significantly in recent years, although house values have increased. The most significant increase in values has been at Kaitoke, where the white sandy beaches (Kaitoke and Medland's), nearby hot springs, and the central location on the Island, with the adjacent airfield, have allowed for a burgeoning vacation centre.


There are 3 primary schools on the island, but no secondary schools, so students either leave the island for schooling on the mainland, or do their studies via the New Zealand Correspondence School .


The remote north of Great Barrier Island was the site of the sinking of the SS Wairarapa on 29 October 1894. This tragedy was one of New Zealand's worst ever shipwrecks, with 135 lives lost.

Local government

Although technically part of Auckland City, it shares with some other islands a certain relaxation in some of the rules governing daily activities. For example, every transport service operated solely on Great Barrier Island, the Chatham Islands, or Stewart Island is exempt from section 70C of the Transport Act 1962 (the requirements for drivers to maintain driving-hours logbooks). Drivers subject to section 70B must nevertheless keep records of their driving hours in some form. See New Zealand Gazette 14 August 2003.


Dragon Island is found just off the east coast of Great Barrier Island, between it and Rakitu Island .

External links

Free website with links to information about, and pictures of, Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island directory of accommodation and visitor information including a map and photographs

Last updated: 05-07-2005 08:08:16
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04