Matiu Somes Island

Matiu Somes Island, at 24.9 ha (62 acres), is the largest of three islands in the northern half of Wellington Harbour, New Zealand. It lies 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) south of the suburb of Petone and the mouth of the Hutt River, and about 5 kilometres (3 mi) northwest of the much smaller Makaro/Ward Island.

Legend has it that both Matiu and Makaro Islands received their original Māori names from Kupe, the semi-legendary first navigator to reach New Zealand and get home again with reports of the new land. He named them after his two daughters (or, in some versions of the tale, nieces) when he first entered the harbour about 1000 years ago.

After European settlement, the island was known for over a century as Somes Island. In 1839 it fell under the control of the New Zealand Company along with much of the greater Wellington region. The island was renamed after Joseph Somes, the company’s deputy-governor and financier at the time. In 1997 however, the New Zealand Geographic Board assigned the official bilingual name of Matiu/Somes in recognition of the island’s colourful European and Māori histories.

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