Prints: Chatham Island Pigeon, Frohawk; Olearia chathamica, W. Curtis
The Chatham Islands are located 860 kilometres east of Christchurch. The land area of around 97,000 hectares is spread unevenly among some 40 islands and islets.
Chatham Island, the largest of the islands, has a high southern tableland flanked by towering cliffs and a gentle northern portion encompassing extensive waterways, low peatlands and long sandy beaches. The other main island, Pitt, has a heartland of forest and a coast of wild cliffs, headlands and sandy beaches. Around the main islands are two smaller islands, Mangere and Rangatira, and several clusters of islets and rock stacks.
Most of the Chatham Islands is privately owned. Access to many areas is by permission of the owners. In addition, the Islands contain a number of sensitive and protected environmental areas. Guided eco-tours of the Islands are available in many forms.
Mangere is now one of only two sites in the world where black robin are found. Chatham Islands snipe and Forbes' parakeets are common, and the shore platforms are home to Chatham Island oystercatchers. New Zealand shore plover have recently been translocated from Rangatira. Rangatira island is home to Chatham Island snipe, tui, tomtit, red-crowned parakeet and oystercatcher. It is the stronghold of the shore plover and black robin.
The Chatham Islands were the very last islands to be settled by people in the Pacific. The residents today are descended from three cultural groups — Moriori, Maori and European. Their distinctive culture is reflected in the many significant archaeological and historic sites. There are various wahi tapu and burial sites as well as remnants of European settlement relating to whaling and farming.