The abundance of fish and edible plants in Tawharanui has provided food to its occupants for the last 1000 years. When Europeans purchased the land in 1873 the timber was milled and the land farmed as well as some parts of it quarried. The parks boundaries were extended in 1981 to create New Zealand's first Marine Protected Area. This prohibits the taking of any marine life from the region and provides a unique environment for snorkelers and divers to experience the many and varied forms of wildlife in this environment. The New Zealand dotterel nests in the sand dunes here and there are many other birds such as the coastal reef heron and spotless crake that also make this place home.