History

The Island’s Story

Quarantine Island Kamau Taurua has a rich history.

QI with first building ~1865 in a clearing in the bush.

Geographically the island and it’s neighbour Goat Island/Rakiriri indicate the centre of the volcano that formed Otago Harbour.  If you imagine a ridge line extending from Port Chalmers across both islands and finishing on the Peninsula.  The islands now mark the approximate halfway point up Otago Harbour.

The islands have had many names over the course of time.  Local Maori, the tangata whenua (people of the land), Kai Tahu, know Quarantine Island as Kamau Taurua.  This is an ancestral name, the name of an ancestral canoe and also has a literal meaning of ‘a place where nets are set.’ Other names of the Island include; Midway/Halfway Islands and Rabbit Island. 

Early in the Community’s purchase of the island’s lease in 1958, they considered changing the name to St Martin Island, after St Martin of Tours.  The thinking was that ‘Quarantine’ had sad memories and negative connotations.  However, St Martin Island was never officially registered as the new name and the older name of Quarantine Island stayed.  The significant history of the island is embraced and acknowledged in this name and it is given equal significance with its Maori counterpart Kamau Taurua.

The island was Otago‘s quarantine station from 1863-1924.  It was awarded the status of a Historic Area by the Historic Places Trust in 2001, and the Community makes as much information as possible available to all those visitors interested in the history of the Island.

The book ‘Quarantine Island/Kamau Taurua – A Short History’ was written by long-time community member, Lyndall Hancock, and was published in 2008. It is available from libraries, the UniBooks, Dunedin (UBS) or the QIKT Community. Much of the information on the history of the island found on this website has come from Lyndall, either through her book or first hand.  As the Community’s eldest member, Lyndall has contributed so much and is an abundant source of historic knowledge.