Whakarua Moutere (or the North-East Islands) is a serial site of nine locations (eight of them island groups) extending along the northeastern coastline of the North Island. The northernmost cluster is the Three Kings Islands (latitude 34º 10' S) 60 km NW off Cape Reinga; the southermost is the Aldermen Islands (36º 58' S) 20 km off the eastern coast of the Coromandel Peninsula.
The nine clusters in the site are:
Most of the islands have the highest level of terrestrial legal protection available (Nature Reserves or Wildlife Sanctuaries). This level of protection equates with IUCN's category 1a protected area. All sites are strictly managed by the Department of Conservation.
In the longer term however, consideration should be given to extending the site by:
(a) adding Mayor Island (Tuhua) which has outstanding geological features and landforms.
(b) adding Ohinau Island, the privately-owned Murimotu Island off North Cape, and some of the smaller privately-owned islands in the Cavalli Islands group; and
(c) including marine protected areas which may eventually be formed around the island clusters (or Te Paki/North Cape).
Only two of the island groups currently have marine reserves in their surrounding seas. The seas around the Three Kings Islands, the benthic communities of Spirits Bay and Tom Bowling Bay, Parengarenga Harbour, and the rock wall and fish communities of the Poor Knights Islands are outstanding marine ecosystems with high levels of species diversity and endemism. An outstanding feature of these marine environments is their relatively unmodified nature, with high water clarity arising from low levels of human-induced sedimentation.
All the Whakarua Moutere islands have prime conservation functions as ‘sanctuary islands' where species threatened on the mainland can recover.