The Sanctuary

ZEALANDIA is the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, with an extraordinary 500-year vision to restore a Wellington valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state. The 225 hectare ecosanctuary is a groundbreaking conservation project that has reintroduced 18 species of native wildlife back into the area, 6 of which were previously absent from mainland New Zealand for over 100 years. 


Prior to the arrival of humans Aotearoa (New Zealand) was a “bird land”, isolated and unique. Without any mammalian predators an ecosystem of remarkable flora and fauna had evolved – the likes of which could be found nowhere else in the world. Sadly, over the last 700 years, that paradise was almost destroyed by humans and the mammals they introduced with them.

Now many of these unique species are flourishing, all thanks to the protection offered by our ground-breaking fence. Remarkable species of birds, reptiles, insects and more are living wild within a beautiful 225ha (one square mile) sanctuary valley that provides 32km (20 miles) of routes for everyone, ranging from wheelchair and buggy friendly to rugged tramping grade – all through scenic terrain and just 10 minutes from central Wellington.


Our ultimate restoration goal is to create self-sustaining ecosystems representative of the pre-human state that existed in New Zealand approximately 1000 years ago. We aim to create a fenced safe haven as free as possible of non-native species, in which we can:

Re-establish wild populations of representative fauna and flora and restore indigenous habitats.
Restore the indigenous character of the valley.
Get key natural processes such as species dispersal and gene-flow functioning once again.
Gain knowledge and methodologies that can be applied elsewhere.
Contribute to national recovery programmes.

A 500-year journey of restoration

We believe it will take 500 years for the restoration of the sanctuary valley. This is based on: 

Removing exotic trees like pine and replacing them with native vegetation so that more natural soil composition and processes can result. 

Forest giants like rātā, rimu and miro are rare or missing. It will be a long time before the small trees being planted now reach maturity and natural regeneration of these species is occurring.

The restoration of native forest in the sanctuary valley will provide habitat for the re-establishment of wildlife species that have disappeared. This is a mutually beneficial relationship as several of our most important tree species (such as tawa and miro) rely almost entirely on birds for transport of their seed and others rely on birds and lizards for pollination.

The Next 20 Years

With a vision so far in to the future we need to break down 500 years into achievable, 20 year 'generations'. In 2016, ZEALANDIA released Living With Nature, Tiaki Taiao, Tiaki Tangata. This is our second generation strategy for 2016 - 2035.


 The Wildlife

ZEALANDIA is about the most biodiversity-rich square mile of mainland New Zealand in terms of the species living wild here. Over forty different species of native birds have been recorded in our sanctuary valley, twenty-four of them endemic (found in no other country). Dozens of reptile species, hundreds of plant species and thousands of kinds of invertebrates have made ZEALANDIA their home. Many of the animals and plants you will see at ZEALANDIA are highly endangered, and some are practically extinct in areas not protected by managed like ours.


Forty different species of native birds have been recorded in our sanctuary valley, twenty-four of them endemic (found in no other country). Check out some of the species you may encounter

Reptiles, Frogs & Invertebrates

New Zealand’s reptiles, insects, and amphibians have changed remarkably little since they were roaming the earth with the dinosaurs. Check out some of the ones you might spot in the sanctuary


Around 80% of New Zealand’s native plants and trees are found nowhere else in the world! Very few native trees drop their leaves in autumn so our forest is always green and lush. Check out some of the flora you may see

Illustration of a Haast's Eagle attacking a Moa

 The History

New Zealand’s flora and fauna differs from every other large land-mass on earth due to its long isolation and uniqueness as a (near) mammal-free environment. The isolated species living here were affected dramatically around 800 years ago, when humans from Polynesia settled in New Zealand. Not long afterwards the first Europeans arrived and both, with the help of introduced pests, began to deplete species around them and clear vast tracts of land. They brought with them a multitude of mammalian pests. Still chewing the life out of our New Zealand bush, these pests are bringing about a grim ending to an almost inconceivably long history of unique and beautiful life.

This trend continued into the early 1990's, when Wellington was in a biologically poor state with native flora and fauna in danger of local extinction and very little happening on the ground other than small-scale planting schemes. Drastic measures needed to be taken to ensure the survival of our species.


The Continent of Zealandia


Rewind 80 million years to better understand why our native wildlife is so unique and so vulnerable. Keep reading.

Karori Before the Fence


See how our sanctuary valley has changed with human arrival, from a Māori hunting ground to an historic water source. Keep reading.

A World-First Sanctuary


How such a crazy idea went from dream to reality and the steps that had to be taken to get there. Keep reading.

 The Team

ZEALANDIA has a small team of staff who work with over 400 volunteers to provide a safe environment for our native species and a world-class nature experience for our visitors. The Strategic Management Team are listed below:

Paul Atkins
Chief Executive

Chris Fitzgerald
Manager Commercial Development

Danielle Shanahan
Manager Conservation, Research, Learning & Experience

Matthew Valentine
Manager Corporate Services

For contact details see here.

 The Trust

ZEALANDIA is managed by Karori Sanctuary Trust, a not-for-profit community-led organisation. The Trust’s official vision is to be a world-class conservation site portraying our natural heritage that captures people’s imagination, understanding and commitment. As part of this we have an extraordinary 500-year vision to restore a corner of mainland New Zealand as closely as possible to the way it was ‘the day before humans arrived’

The establishment of the Trust in 1995 was a radical idea and a major breakthrough in the conservation and recovery of native wildlife on mainland New Zealand, reversing a decline that has lasted for at least 700 years. The Trust’s groundbreaking achievements in urban ecological restoration; the eradication of invasive species; and the recovery of endangered native wildlife exceeded all expectations in its first ten years.

Karori Sanctuary Trust logo



Six trustees, chosen for their appropriate range and balance of skills and experience to ensure the sound management of the Trust and to assist the Trust in achieving its objectives, are appointed by Wellington City Council with guidance from the Guardians of the sanctuary. The Trust also has three patrons who were involved in its establishment.

 Denise Church 

Denise Church (QSO), Chair

Denise is a Wellington based company director and consultant. She has been chair of the Karori Sanctuary Trust Board since 2013 and is also Chair of the Institute of Environmental Science and Research. Denise was Chief Executive of the Ministry for the Environment from 1996 to 2001, and before that was Public Affairs Director for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the UK. She has an active interest in conservation, science, education and youth development and the sanctuary’s kākā are regular visitors to her Kelburn garden.

Contact Denise at

 David Bibby 

Professor David Bibby (CNZM, PhD, DSc)

Professor Bibby was awarded the CNZM in June 2015 for ‘services to science and education’. This has comprised a 40-year career in science, management and education, including 10 years at Victoria University of Wellington as Pro-Vice Chancellor and Dean of Science, Engineering, Architecture and Design. He has also been Acting Head of the School of Economics and Finance at VUW, during which time he was lecturing in the faculty of Business and the faculty of Science.


 Pete Monk 

Pete Monk

Pete Monk has served two terms on the board of Positively Wellington Tourism, was Head of Marketing for Interislander, General Manager of Fly Buys, and Chief Executive in IT and manufacturing ventures. Pete currently manages Ata Rangi, a Martinborough vineyard, in tandem with his own photography business specialising in landscapes and nature. He is also chairman of Toast Martinborough, and treasurer of Featherston Booktown Trust. Pete has an active interest in nature and conservation. He contributed in the past as a transitional manager at ZEALANDIA, holds life membership of Wingspan Birds of Prey Trust, and is involved in a voluntary capacity with other conservation organisations and initiatives.


 Phillip Meyer 

Phillip Meyer (FAIM, Life FNZIM, CF Inst D, F Fin)

Phillip Meyer is an experienced company director and investment banker. He is Chairman of Australian Financial Services Group and Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association. He is a director of CRS Software Limited, Trustee of Young Enterprise Trust and Crimestoppers Trust. He is a Chartered Fellow of the Institute of Directors, Life Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Management, Fellow and Councillor of the Financial Services Institute of Australasia and Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management.


 Russell Spratt 

Russell Spratt

Russell has achieved considerable success delivering results across the public, private and NGO sectors. He is of Te Ati Awa ki Whakarongotai, Ngāti Toa Rangatira and Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga descent. Russell is involved in numerous Māori trusts at governance level and is also the pan-tribal representative on the Kapiti Coast District Council’s Corporate Business Committee, a member of the Economic Development Management Group and a member of the Māori Economic Development panel. In addition to having knowledge of bi-cultural issues, Russell is an MBA graduate with significant expertise in the education sector.


 Steven Thompson 

Steven Thompson

Steven was the Sanctuary Trust Marketing and Fundraising Manager between 1997 – 2001 which were exciting times when the Trust completed the pest eradication programme and built the predator proof fence. His current role is National Marketing Manager for Ticketek NZ.




Roy Sharp (Chair)

Roy is the former Chief Executive of the Tertiary Education Commission, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Canterbury and former Deputy Vice Chancellor at Victoria University. Roy has also been a volunteer guide at ZEALANDIA for several years.

Phone: 475 9945


John Burnet

John has been a founder member since 1996 and an active volunteer guide for many years. In 2002 he was recruited to manage the conversion of the Visitor Centre from a weekend to a seven day operation. He has recently retired from a project management career within the banking industry and is running an apiary consultancy and supply business having been a keen beekeeper for over 30 years.

Phone: (04) 232 7863 or 027 4379 062

Dr. Peter Gilberd

Dr. Peter Gilberd is a Wellington City Councillor, who holds the Natural Environment and City Science portfolios. He trained as a scientist, has a research and teaching background in physics, and has worked in research funding with the Royal Society Te Apārangi. At a practical level, Peter is a passionate grower and planter of native trees, determined to extend the halo right through the northern suburbs of Wellington, to Newlands.

Phone:  027 614 1416

Jim Lynch, QSM

Jim is the originator of the sanctuary concept and founder of the Trust in the early 1990s. He has wide experience of ecology and conservation management at a national level and in 2001 was awarded the QSM for services to conservation in Wellington.

Phone: 04 293 5587

Kevin Mason

Kevin is a foundation member and a foundation guide. He continues to be an active volunteer guide. He is also a long standing member of the Tararua tramping club, a past Rotarian, and has a passion for our natural heritage and the great outdoors. He is an IT architect, and has Post Graduate Diploma’s in Management and Marketing.

Phone: 04 476 3069

Dr. Nicola Nelson

Dr. Nicola Nelson is an academic at Victoria University of Wellington in the School of Biological Sciences. Her research involves conservation biology, in particular, of reptiles. She is a founding member of the Sanctuary and helped to manage the tuatara translocation from Stephens Island.

Phone: 04 463 5435

Katie Underwood

Katie became involved with the Sanctuary as a founder member in 1996. Since then she has been a keen volunteer and casual staff member as part of the ZEALANDIA by Night team. She has a Post Graduate Diploma in Wildlife Management from Otago University.

Phone: 04 894 3717 or 027 248 2061




Sir Michael Hardie Boys, GNZM GCMG QSO KStJ


Sir Michael was born in Wellington, where after attending Hataitai School and Wellington College, he went on to Victoria University College, graduating BA, LlB. In 1995, he received the first GNZM awarded in 1996, and is a Knight of the Order of St John. He was New Zealand’s 17th Governor-General from 21 March 1996 to 21 March 2001, when he was awarded the Queen’s Service Order for Public Services.


Michael S Morris, ONZM


Michael is a chartered accountant by profession who has held senior directorship roles in many industries and has served on many boards in the private and community sector, chairing many of them. He was Chairman of the Karori Sanctuary Trust from 1995-2002 and since then has been Vice-Patron. In 1997 Michael received the award of Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for his services to business and the community.

Jim Lynch, QSM

Founder Vice-Patron

Jim was the originator and founder of the Trust in the early 1990’s. He has wide experience of ecology and conservation management at a national level and has designed large scale management systems and training programmes for major organisations. In 2001 he was awarded the QSM for services to conservation in Wellington. He is Chair of the Guardians and in November 2007 he was appointed Founder Vice-Patron.

 The Supporters

ZEALANDIA is managed by Karori Sanctuary Trust: a not-for-profit charitable trust. We rely on a variety of sources for funding and other support. The Trust gratefully acknowledges the support of its sponsors and partners who are involved in a range of different initiatives. If you would like to find out more about how you, or your organisation, can support the work of Karori Sanctuary Trust then please contact us.

 Wellington City Council 

 Victoria University         Department of Conservation Logo         Wellington Tenths Trust Logo         Nature Connections Logo 

 Russell McVeagh Logo        NZCT Logo        Holdsworth Charitable Trust        R & D Evans Charitable Trust        WN Pharazyn Charitable Trust        Stout Trust


Community Supporters


 NZ Lottery Grants Logo        Lions Logo        Forest and Bird Logo        


Founding Supporters

Fletcher Trust Logo       GWRC Logo       Keith Taylor Charitable Trust       NZ Lottery Grants Logo        Todd Foundation Logo               Wellington Community Trust Logo


Other Supporters


A.J. Wills

Dorothy L Newman Charitable Trust

Conservation Volunteers New Zealand

Endangered Species Foundation

Ernst & Young

Greater Wellington Regional Council

Harbour City Security

Hutt Mana Charitable Trust

Hyve Communications

Landcare Research

Massey University



Ministry of Education

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Ngāti Kōata

Ngāti Kuia

Ngāti Manuhiri

Ngāti Paoa

Ngāti Tahu

Ngāti Toa

Ornithological Society of New Zealand

Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust


Steam and Sand

Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai

Te Kawerau a Maki


Waikato University

Wellington Botanical Society

Wellington Zoo

Weta Digital

Woolyarns Ltd

WWF New Zealand

Zero Invasive Predators (ZIP)