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A timeline of highlights for the Poor Knights Islands

25 November 1769 Captain James Cook sailed past the islands and, according to the historian Beaglehole, named them after a popular European and English breakfast dish,
known at the time as the ‘Poor Knights Pudding’

1820 Maori elders declare the Islands ‘tapu’ (forbidden, or restricted) after an inter-tribal massacre.

1845 JS Pollock reportedly bought the islands from local Maori. His ownership was never substantiated and in 1882 the Poor Knights were purchased at auction by the government to be used as a lighthouse reserve.
A small, automated lighthouse was eventually erected on the north-eastern cliffs of Tawhiti Rahi in the late 1950s.
In 1922 the islands were declared a ‘scenic’ reserve.

1929 the islands were declared a sanctuary for nature and imported game. However, besides the pigs left over from Maori occupation, no other wildlife was ever introduced to the Islands.

During these years several scientific and archaeological expeditions took place and efforts were made to exterminate the now ‘wild’ pigs that were causing extensive damage to the bush and threatening the survival of many of the native species.

1936 the pigs were finally eradicated and the islands were left to recover.

1967 the islands became part of the newly formed Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park.

1975 reserve status was granted for the protection of native flora and fauna.
When the Reserves Act of 1977 came into force the islands were automatically classified as a nature reserve, the highest form of protection in New Zealand.

1981 established as New Zealand’s second Marine Reserve.

Set up in the late 1980’s, the early Aqua Action and Knightline dive companies amalgamated in 1999, to form Dive! Tutukaka, with the longest history of running diving and sightseeing trips out to the Poor Knights Islands.

In 1998 the Poor Knights was granted full Marine Reserve status, extending 800 metres out from any part of the Islands and associated islets, rocks and stacks.

Department of Conservation Poor Knights Island: Marine Reserve webpage

In 2007 Dive! Tutukaka, the people of the Tutukaka Coast, Northland and the whole of New Zealand celebrated 25 years of continuous Marine Reserve status for the Poor Knights Islands.

Today the Poor Knights are considered one of the most important offshore marine and nature reserves in the country and access is restricted to scientific studies that will directly benefit the Islands.