archipelago of the Chatham
Islands (Rekohu in Moriori;
Wharekauri in Māori) is a territory of New Zealand of about ten islands, the
largest of which are Chatham Island and Pitt
Island, within a radius.
The remote islands, over
east of southern New Zealand, have officially belonged to that
country since 1842.
islands are at about , roughly east of Christchurch, New
- See also: Chatham
They cover a total of , almost all of which
is in the two main islands.
The islands sit on the Chatham Rise
large, relatively shallowly submerged (no more than 1000 metres
deep at any point) part of the Zealandia
continent that stretches
east from near the South Island. The Chatham Islands are the only
part of the Chatham Rise to emerge above the sea. The islands
themselves have only emerged within the last four million
Chatham and Pitt are the only inhabited islands, with the remaining
smaller islands being conservation reserves with access restricted
The names of the main islands, in Moriori, English and Māori in the
order of occupation are:
- Rekohu / Chatham Island / Wharekauri
- Rangiaotea / Pitt Island / Rangiauria
- Rangatira / South East Island / Rangatira
- Unknown / The Fort / Mangere
- Unknown / Little Mangere /
- Motuhope / Star Keys /
- Rangitatahi / The Sisters /
Rangitatahi - about north of Cape
Pattison, a headland in the northwestern part of Chatham
- Motuhara / The Forty-Fours
- the easternmost point of New Zealand, about from Chatham
Some of these islands, once cleared for farming, are now preserved
as nature reserves to conserve some of the flora and fauna that are
unique to the Chathams.
date line lies to the east of the Chathams, even though the
islands lie east of 180° longitude.
Chathams observe their own time, 45 minutes ahead of New Zealand time
, including during
periods of daylight saving. (New Zealand Time orients itself to
180° longitude). Chatham Island is the antipodes of the French department of Hérault (Languedoc-Roussillon).
Most of the land is fern or pasture covered, although there are
some areas of forest. Of interest are the macrocarpa
trees, with branches
trailing almost horizontally in the lee of the wind. The islands
are generally hilly, Pitt more so than Chatham, although the
highest point ( ) is on a plateau near the southernmost point of
the main island. The main island of the groups, Rekohu, is
dotted with numerous lakes and lagoons, notably the large Te Whanga
Other lakes on Chatham include Huro and
Rangitahi. Rekohu has a number of streams including Te Awainanga
and Tuku. The ferns in the forest understory
include Blechnum discolor
The island is home to a number of endemic
plants, of which Chatham Islands forget-me-not (Myosotidium hortensia
), Chatham Islands kakaha (Astelia chathamica
) , soft
) and Chatham Island akeake or Chatham Island
tree daisy (Olearia
) are among the most well known.
The island has a number of endemic birds
most well known species of the islands are the Magenta Petrel
and the Black Robin
, both of which came perilously close
before being subjected to
endemic species are the Chatham Island Oystercatcher
the Chatham Gerygone
, the Parea
or Chatham Islands Pigeon, Forbes' Parakeet
, the Chatham Islands Snipe
and the Shore Plover
. A number of species have also
, including the three endemic
species of rail
, Chatham Islands Raven
and the Chatham Islands Fernbird
The first human
habitation of the Chathams
involved migrating Polynesian tribes
who settled the islands about 1500 CE
, and in their isolation became the Moriori
people. The exact origins of these people
remain a matter of some dispute. The Moriori population of the
islands numbered about 2000. Their agricultural resources were not
suited for the colder Chathams, so they lived as hunter-gatherers
, taking food from the sea
and from native flora. Whilst their new environment deprived them
of the resources with which to build ocean-going craft for long
voyages, their intelligence and perseverance saw the invention of
the most ingenious craft afloat. Moriori built what was known as
the waka korari, a semi-submerged craft, constructed of flax and
lined with air bladders from kelp. This craft was used to travel to
the outer islands on 'birding' missions (King. M, 1989, Moriori, a
people Rediscovered). The Moriori society was a peaceful society
and bloodshed was outlawed by the chief Nunuku after generations of
warfare. Arguments were solved by consensus or by individual duels
rather than warfare,
but at the first sign of bloodshed, the fight was over.
The name "Chatham Islands" comes from the ship HMS Chatham
of the Vancouver Expedition
, whose captain
William R. Broughton landed on November 29 1791, claimed
possession for Great
Britain and named the islands after the political head of
the Royal Navy, John
Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham).
A relative of his, Thomas Pitt
, was a member
of the Vancouver Expedition. Sealers
soon started hunting in the
surrounding ocean with the islands as their base. It is estimated
that 10 to 20 percent of the indigenous population soon died from
diseases introduced by foreigners. The sealing and whaling
industries ceased activities about 1861, while fishing
remained as a major economic activity.
On November 19
, a British ship carrying 500 Māori armed with
guns, clubs and axes arrived, followed by another ship on December 5
further 400 Māori. They proceeded to massacre
the Moriori and enslave the
survivors. A Moriori survivor recalled: "[The Māori] commenced to
kill us like sheep.... [We] were terrified, fled to the bush,
concealed ourselves in holes underground, and in any place to
escape our enemies. It was of no avail; we were discovered and
killed - men, women and children indiscriminately". A Māori
conqueror justified their actions as follows: "We took
possession... in accordance with our customs and we caught all the
people. Not one escaped....."
After the invasion, Moriori were forbidden to marry Moriori, nor to
have children with each other. All became slaves of the Ngati Tama
and Ngati Mutunga invaders. Many died from despair. Many Moriori
women had children to their Maori masters. A small amount of
Moriori women eventually married either Maori or European men. Some
were taken from the Chathams and never returned. Today, in spite of
the difficulties and genocide that Moriori faced, Moriori are
enjoying a renaissance, both on Rekohu and in the mainland of New
Zealand. Moriori culture is being revived and they have celebrated
the opening of the new Kopinga Marae (meeting house) in January
all-male group of German Lutheran
missionaries arrived in 1843.
After a group of women were
sent out to join them three years later several marriages ensued,
and many members of the present-day population can trace their
ancestry back to the missionary families.
Moriori have received recognition from the Crown and Government and
some of their claims against those institutions for the generations
of neglect and oppression have been listened to and acted on.
Moriori are recognised as the original people of Rekohu. The Crown
also recognised the invading Maori tribe: Ngati Mutunga
as having "indigenous" status in the
Chathams by right of 160-odd years of occupation. Both groups have
been given settlement packages of fishing quota.
It had been thought since the 1800s that the original Moriori
arrived directly from more northerly Polynesian islands, which
would make the Moriori's fishing rights claim invalid. However,
current research indicates that ancestral Moriori were Māori who
came to the Chathams from New Zealand about 1500.As Kerry Howe puts
Scholarship over the past 40 years has radically
revised the model offered a century earlier by Smith: the Moriori
as a pre-Polynesian people have gone (the term Moriori is now a
technical term referring to those ancestral Maori who settled the
Modern inhabitants, descendants of those who invaded and conquered
the archipelago in 1835, claim access to ancestral Māori fishing
rights. An extensive report on these claims, "Rekohu", has been
published by theWaitangi
An agricultural scene on the islands
Chatham and Pitt Islands are inhabited. The population of 609
individuals have European
(64.2%) and Moriori
origins. The town of Waitangi is the main settlement with some 200
There are other villages such as Owenga
, Te One and Kaingaroa, where there are two
primary schools. A third school is on Pitt Island. There are also
the fishing villages of Owenga and Port Hutt.
Waitangi facilities include a hospital with resident doctor, bank,
several stores, and engineering and marine services. The main
shipping wharf is located here.
to the Chathams usually arrive by air from Christchurch, Auckland or Wellington (around 1.5 – 2 hours from Christchurch on a
While freight generally arrives by
ship (4–5 days' sailing time), the sea journey takes too long for
many passengers, and is not always available.
The Chathams are part of New Zealand so there are no border
controls or formalities on arrival, but visitors are advised to
have prearranged their accommodation on the islands. Transport
operators may refuse to carry passengers without accommodation
bookings. There is no scheduled public transport but accommodation
providers are normally able to arrange transport.
For many years a Bristol Freighter
served the islands, a slow and noisy freight aircraft converted for
carrying passengers by installing a passenger container equipped
with airline seats
and a toilet in part
of the cargo hold. The air service primarily served to ship out
high-value export crayfish
The grass landing-field at Hapupu, at the northern end of the
Island, proved a limiting factor, as few aircraft apart from the
Bristol Freighter had both the range to fly to the islands and the
ruggedness to land on the grass airstrip. Although other aircraft
did use the landing field occasionally, they would often require
repairs to fix damage resulting from the rough landing.
also the site of the JM Barker National Historic
Reserve (one of only two in New Zealand) where there are
momori rakau (Moriori tree carvings).
after many years of requests by locals and the imminent demise of
the aging Bristol Freighter aircraft, the construction of a sealed
runway at Karewa, Tuuta
Airport, allowed more modern aircraft to land
The Chathams' own airline, Air Chathams
, now operates services to Auckland
on Thursdays, Wellington on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and
Christchurch on Tuesdays. The timetable varies seasonally, but
generally planes depart the Chathams around 10.30 am (Chathams
Time) and arrive in the mainland around noon. There they refuel and
reload, and depart again at around 1 pm back to the Chathams. Air
Chathams operates twin turboprop Convair 580 aircraft in combi
(freight and passenger) configurations and Fairchild Metroliners
Robin Freighters operates shipping services from Timaru and Napier.
There is a small section of tar sealed road between Waitangi and Te
One, but the majority of the island's roads are gravel.
Until the 1980s the Chathams were in the Lyttelton
electorate, but since then
they have formed part of the Rongotai
electorate, which mostly lies in Wellington. Annette King
is the MP for Rongotai. The
Te Tai Tonga Māori seat
(held since 2008 by Rahui
Katene) includes the Chatham Islands.
Local government on the islands, uniquely
Zealand, involves a council established by its own Act of
Parliament, the (Chatham Islands Council Act 1995).
operates as a district council
making it in effect a unitary
but with not quite as many responsibilities as the
others. Some Regional Council functions are being administered by
Environment Canterbury, the Canterbury Regional Council.
Policing is carried out by a sole-charge
constable appointed by the Wellington police district, who has often doubled as an
official for many government
departments, including court registrar (Department for Courts),
customs officer (New Zealand Customs Service) and immigration
officer (Department of Labour - New Zealand Immigration
District Court judge sent from either the North Island or the South Island presides over court sittings, but urgent sittings
may take place at the Wellington District Court.
Because of the isolation and small population, some of the rules
governing daily activities undergo a certain relaxation.
example, every transport service operated
solely on Great
Barrier Island, the Chatham Islands or Stewart
Island/Rakiura need not comply with section 70C of the Transport
Act 1962 (the requirements for drivers to maintain driving-hours
Drivers subject to section 70B must nevertheless
keep record of their driving hours in some form. See New Zealand Gazette 14 August 2003
partially-elected Hawke's Bay District Health Board provides the islands with
There are three schools on the Chathams, at Kaingaroa, Te One and
Pitt Island. Pitt Island and Kaingaroa are staffed by sole charge
principals while Te One has three teachers and a principal. These
schools cater for children from Year 1 to 8. There is no secondary
school on the Chathams. The majority of secondary school aged
students leave the island for boarding schools in New Zealand. A
small number remain on the island and carry out their secondary
education through correspondence.
At present, the island is powered by a number of diesel generators.
In July 2009, final plans were made for the installation of two
200kw wind turbines to provide most of the power on the
In Jules Verne
's Robur the Conqueror
, Robur anchors
his flying vessel Albatross
over the Chathams after the
horizontal propellers are damaged in a storm.
The novel Cloud Atlas
includes the diary of a fictitious 19th century American traveller
who passes through the Chathams.
In Joe Buff
's futuristic nuclear submarine
warfare book Crush Depth
(ISBN 0-06-000964-0), Chatham
Island is destroyed by an Axis planted atomic bomb.
- "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of
Human Societies", p. 53, Jared Diamond, 1997, New York, W. W.
- Ross Clark
(1994). Moriori and Maori: The Linguistic Evidence. In
Douglas G. (Ed.) (1994), The Origins of the First New
Zealanders. Auckland: Auckland University Press, pp.
Davis and Māui Solomon (2006). Moriori, Te Ara - the
Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 9-Jun-2006.
- Kerry R.
Howe (2006). Ideas of Māori origins, Te Ara - the
Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 9-Jun-2006.
King (2000). Moriori: A People Rediscovered (Revised
Edition). Published by Viking. ISBN 0-14-010391-0. Original edition
- Kerry R. Howe (2003). The Quest for Origins: Who First
Discovered and Settled New Zealand and the Pacific Islands?
Auckland:Penguin, page 182
- Chatham Islands Council Act 1995 Statute No
041, Commenced: 1 November 1995, retrieved 4 February 2008.