Kawau Island is situated in the Hauraki Gulf in the Rodney District, approximately 8.4 kilometres from Sandspit and at its closest point to the mainland is 1.5 kilometres from Tawharanui Peninsula.

Kawau has a land area of just over 2000 ha (5200 acres), 90% of which is privately owned, and 10% is public land administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Topography of Kawau

The topography of Kawau can be described as hilly to steep with some relatively large flat to gently sloping areas, both elevated and in valleys. High cliffs face the open sea to the east and for the most part are impassable with few safe landing places for vessels on that coast. Inlets and harbours formed by drowned valleys (as the land tilted downward to the west and as the sea level rose following the last Ice Age) penetrate the more sheltered western shoreline. There are two large sandy bays at the flanks of the western shoreline.The land is geologically tilted to the west, and this gives rise to the shape of the Island with the harbours formed by drowned valleys on the western side.

All of the main watercourses on the island flow generally to the west for the same reason. The contrasting curved eastern shoreline generally has high cliffs as the remnant landmass is slowly attacked in geological time (millions of years) by the open sea.

There are estuaries and intertidal zones in the harbours, and wetlands associated with some of the larger streams.The Island has a wide range of habitats for native flora and fauna.

The Kawau Island Zone

Kawau Island is in the Auckland City, Rodney District, and in the District Plans the Island is called the Kawau Island Zone, which is divided into two areas, a Settlement Policy Area and a Bush Policy Area. By urban standards development in the Settlement Policy Area is very low density, and in the (larger) Bush Policy Area there is very little development. The two policy areas are a product of participation by the Kawau Island community in developing the District Plans over the years, with emphasis upon preserving the special character of the Island by discouraging the formation of roads (there is no road network) and the introduction of motor vehicles, and recognising the potential to progressively restore the Islands flora and fauna, integrated with some small scale appropriate sustainable land uses such as large bush lots where experience has shown owners will look after and enhance ecological values, and small scale vineyards, or orchards, for fruit, nut or oil production for example.

The Ecological Potential of Kawau Island

To appreciate the ecological potential of Kawau Island, consider the area of Tiritiri Island at the bottom right of the below map off the coast of Whangaparaoa Peninsula.

Animal pests have been eradicated from Tiritiri and it is now the home of several endangered New Zealand bird species.

Rare and endangered native birds have been introduced to Tiritiri including the North Island Saddleback, the North Island Robin, the North Island Kokako, and the Takahe.

Now to assess the enormous potential of Kawau Island, note that Tiritiri Island fits into the area of Kawau Island's Bon Accord Harbour!

The range of habitats and ecological settings on Kawau Island could never be offered on Tiritiri. Even the remnant native trees, mostly in valleys, are at least 150 years ahead of the flora on Tiritiri.

The difference is the animal pests on Kawau, particularly the herbivores introduced by Sir George Grey, and the ship Rats which probably arrived with the first sailing ships, but also the Stoats which arrived recently by swimming the short distance from the mainland, and Feral Cats which have bred from domestic escapees.

How to get to Kawau Island

There are a number of commercial ferry providers that run regular schedules services to the Island. There is also a water taxi service that will run on request.