|Land area||1,746 km²|
Stewart Island/Rakiura is the third-largest island of New Zealand. It lies 30 km south of the South Island, across Foveaux Strait. Its permanent population is slightly fewer than 400 people, most of whom live in the settlement of Oban.
 History and naming
Captain Cook was the first European to sight the island, in 1770, but he thought it was part of the South Island so he named it South Cape. The Island is named for William Stewart. In 1809 he was aboard the “Pegasus”, sailing from Port Jackson, Australia, on a sealing expedition. While the boat was in the large south eastern harbour which now bears its name (Pegasus), William Stewart began charting the southern coasts, and his work is acknowledged by the Island’s name.
The original Maori name, Te Punga o Te Waka a Maui, positions Stewart Island/Rakiura firmly at the heart of Maori mythology. Translated as The Anchor Stone of Maui’s Canoe, it refers to the part played by the island in the legend of Maui and his crew, who from their canoe, the South Island, caught and raised the great fish, the North Island.
Rakiura is the more commonly known and used Maori name. It is usually translated as Glowing Skies, possibly a reference to the sunsets for which it is famous or for the Aurora Australis, the southern lights that are a phenomenon of southern latitudes.
For some, Rakiura is the abbreviated version of Te Rakiura a Te Rakitamau, translated as "great blush of Rakitamau", in reference to the latter's embarrassment when refused the hand in marriage of not one, but two daughters, of an island chief. According to Maori legend, a chief on the island named Te Rakitamau was married to a young woman who became terminally ill and implored him to marry her cousin after she died. Te Rakitamau paddled across Te Moana Tapokopoko a Tawhiki (Foveaux Strait) to the South Island where the cousin lived, only to discover she was recently married. He blushed with embarrassment so the island was called Te Ura o Te Rakitamau.
In 1841, the island was established as one of the three Provinces of New Zealand, and was named New Leinster. However, the province existed on paper only and was abolished after only five years , and with the passing of the New Zealand Constitution Act 1846 the province became part of New Munster, which included the entire South Island. When New Munster was abolished in 1853, Stewart Island became part of Otago Province until 1861 when Southland Province split from Otago. In 1876 the provinces were abolished all together.
The island has an area of 1,746 km². The north is dominated by the swampy valley of the Freshwater River. The river rises close to the northwestern coast and flows southeast into the large indentation of Paterson Inlet. The highest peak is Mt Anglem, close to the northern coast, at a height of 979 metres. It is one of the peaks in a rim of ridges that surround the Freshwater valley.
The southern half is more uniformly undulating, rising to a ridge that runs south from the valley of the Rakeahua River, which also flows into Paterson Inlet. The southernmost point in this ridge is Mt Allen, at 750 metres. In the southeast the land is somewhat lower, and is drained by the valleys of the Toitoi, Lords and Heron rivers. South West Cape in the southwest, is the southernmost point of the main islands of New Zealand.
Mason Bay, on the west side, is notable as a long sandy beach on an island where beaches are typically far more rugged. One suggestion is that the bay was formed in the aftershock of a meteoric impact in the Tasman Sea.
Three large and numerous small islands lie around the coast. Notable among these are Ruapuke Island, in Foveaux Strait 32 km northeast of Oban; Codfish Island, close to the northwest shore; and Big South Cape Island, off the southwestern tip. The Titi (Muttonbird) Island groups are between Stewart Island/Rakiura and Ruapuke Island, around Big South Cape Island, and off the southeastern coast. Other islands of interest include Bench, Native, and Ulva Island, all close to the mouth of Paterson Inlet, and Pearl, Anchorage, and Noble Island, close to Port Pegasus in the southwest.
Two groups of tiny above-water rocks south of Stewart Island/Rakiura are still on the continental shelf: North Trap, a reef of above and below-water rocks at fronts the southern shore, about 28.2 km southwest by south of the mouth of the Lords River. A 1.5-m high rock near the western end and a 0.9-m high rock near the eastern end give it the appearance of an overturned boat. South Trap, a reef of above-water rocks 1.2 to 1.8 m high and below-water rocks at , lies about 16.9 km south by west of North Trap.
A previous settlement, Port Pegasus, once boasted several stores and a post office, and was located on the southern coast of the island. It is now uninhabited, and is accessible only by boat or by an arduous hike.
 Communications and economy
A regular passenger ferry service runs between Bluff and Oban.
Although some tourism, forestry, and farming takes place on Stewart Island/Rakiura, the main industry is fishing. Over 80% of the island is set aside as Rakiura National Park, New Zealand's newest national park.
In local government terms, the island is part of Southland District. However, it shares with some other islands a certain relaxation in some of the rules governing daily activities. For example, every transport service operated solely on Great Barrier Island, the Chatham Islands, or Stewart Island/Rakiura is exempt from Transport Act 1962, the requirement for commercial drivers to maintain a driving-hours logbook, but they must keep a record of their driving hours in some form. See New Zealand Gazette 14 August 2003.
On 1 April 2005, TV3's Campbell Live show reported that the New Zealand government planned to sell a large part of the island to the United States, to host an air base supporting their operations in Antarctica. In the following show, the presenter John Campbell said that confused staff at the Prime Minister's office had contacted them after receiving several complaints from the public about these plans. Campbell confirmed that the story was an April Fool's Day hoax.
There are many species of birds on Stewart Island/Rakiura that thrive because of the isolation and protection from predators. These include the Kakapo, Weka, Kākā, Albatrosses, Penguins, Tokoeka, Silvereyes, Wrens, Flycatchers, and rare Yellowheads. The large colonies of Sooty Shearwaters, or muttonbirds, are subject to a sustainable harvesting program managed by Rakiura Maori.
Stewart Island/Rakiura supports a large population of whitetail (Virginia) deer in coastal areas, which are hunted for meat and sport. There is also a small population of red deer confined to the inland parts.
 Rakiura sky images
Aurora Australis latitude 47 deg South. Taken at Bluff, New Zealand, looking toward Stewart Island/Rakiura. The Crux (Southern Cross) is clearly visible.
A webcam overlooking the harbour at Stewart Island
 External links
- Stewart Island Promotion Association
- Rakiura National Park
- Stewart Island News
- Stewart Island Flights
This article uses material from Wikipedia, "Stewart Island"