Sixty tuatara have been relocated to pest-free Motuihe Island to help make sure more of the unique reptiles will be around for years to come.

The tuatara - from Lady Alice Island, one of the Hen and Chicken Islands off Northland - were flown to Motuihe yesterday and handed over during a special ceremony.

The release is part of a project led by the Motuihe Trust to establish a population of tuatara near Auckland and therefore more accessible. The Department of Conservation is also involved in the project.

There have been no mice, rats, rabbits or feral cats on the island for seven years. It is hoped that the move to the pest-free zone will ensure the population of tuatara thrives to be enjoyed for generations tocome.

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Trust chairman John Laurence said that with up to 350,000 native trees planted, Motuihe Island was the perfect home not only for tuatara but other wildlife living there including kakariki, little spotted kiwi, shore skink and kiwi.

DoC Auckland area manager Brett Butland said a lot of work had been done at the island to make sure endangered wildlife there would be safe. He stressed that people travelling to such islands must check their vessels for pests.

Yesterday's release means there are now three pest-free islands with tuatara in the Hauraki Gulf - the others being Tiritiri Matangi and Little Barrier Island.