The Kermadec Islands are the visible surface of a chain of about 80 volcanoes, stretching for 2600 km between Tonga and New Zealand. Raoul Island is the biggest in the group, which begins at the southernmost L’Esperance. While the other islands and islets are smaller, several of them harbour important bird colonies.
The marine reserve was created in 1990 and is one of New Zealand’s largest marine reserves, covering 745,000 ha. It supports New Zealand’s only truly subtropical marine systems, and historically low levels of fishing have left this environment largely undisturbed and abundant.
The Pacific and Australasian tectonic plates collide along the Kermadec Trench, lifting and buckling the Australasian plate and sinking the Pacific plate. The volcanic chain is formed by the Pacific plate melting as it sinks beneath the Australasian plate.