Great Barrier Island Environmental News

Something is Different about Glenfern Today

by Scott Sambell

I’m watching the same kaka (and their children) feed from the apples that I’ve put out every morning on those nails I hammered into that manuka stump four years ago for those Auckland University guys to lure in the birds for their study. They never told me to stop feeding them, so for no greater reason than I enjoy the company, I’ve been doing it ever since.

But this morning there seems to be some greater purpose for doing this. This morning I’m not cutting the apples into increasingly thinner segments to make the bag last longer in case this is the last lot I’m ever going to buy for my regular morning congregation.

Today Glenfern Sanctuary is in public ownership…for perpetuity. Today I won’t be on the phone to councillors, members of parliament or representatives of funding bodies, reciting the same statistics over and over again. I won’t be updating what has now become an opus of a business plan, to convince the auditors and lawyers that, yes, this place will not only cover its own costs but perhaps even make you money if you just give us a chance.

For the first time since that fateful night we shuffled Tony Bouzaid onto the Westpac rescue chopper, I am thinking not of how to just stay open for another month, but actually about doing long-term, effective restoration work. It’s strange now to think of this as an afterthought – something so fundamental.

In saying that, I’m now looking at what we have achieved in the last four years despite this major uncertainty – it seems quite amazing to see how far we have come as a sanctuary.  Even though we weren’t to know from one moment to the next if we were going to be open in another month’s time, we dug in and got on with it anyway. 

As much as I tried to rein in my co-manager, she was relentless – “unless you are doing restoration work, this is not a sanctuary so you can’t pitch it as such”, she would say.

And restore she did (following the creation of a comprehensive restoration plan of course).

We now have a few thousand more trees in the ground, a now famously successful sustainability education program with Hillary Outdoors, a purpose-built pateke pond that has spawned over 52 graduates, an ever-expanding colony of Cook’s petrels and black petrels, a database of over 400 individual chevron skinks, a purpose-built rehabilitation aviary for sick, injured and orphaned birds, a world class geographic information system (GIS) to document it all, and as a result of all this, a thriving on-site accommodation business. 

The purchase of Glenfern is a starting point for a new era in conservation on Great Barrier Island and the Hauraki Gulf. 

All despite my continual pleas to “not start any more projects until we know what’s going to happen to the place”. But we do know what’s happening to the place now.  So it’s probably high time I filled you in. 

The land known as ‘Glenfern’, the block of 80 hectares on the south side of the Kotuku Peninsula and previously owned by the Bouzaid family, is now owned by Auckland Council. It was purchased using funds from the Council, the Nature Heritage Fund and Foundation North.

The land will be designated as a regional park but it’s going so much more than that. This deal was not simply an opportunity to secure a pond for a few lucky ducks, and a secure habitat for seabirds and some freakishly large lizards. The purchase of Glenfern is a starting point for a new era in conservation on Great Barrier Island and the Hauraki Gulf.

History of Glenfern under Bouzaid Ownership compiled by Scott Sambell


  • Built pateke (brown teal) pond.

  • Built quad track along ridge line and into Glenfern gully.

  • Established glasshouse/nurseries, began collecting/propagating seeds.

  • Targeted feral cats, trapping 17.


  • Begun construction of large pateke pond.

  • Continued boardwalk and bridge to kauri.

  • Continued planting and propagation.

Overlooking Port FitzRoy from Glenfern Sanctuary.  Photo: Glenfern Sanctuary


  • Planted botanical walkway in the forest with native trees growing on the island.

  • Continued Glenfern Gully tracks.

  • Completed and signed-off bridge to kauri.

  • Began planting 10,000 native trees.


  • Established additional nursery area.

  • Continued restoration planting.

  • Completed Glenfern Gully tracks.


  • Continued restoration planting.

  • Video on damage by cats to native fauna.


  • Name plaques on trees in native gully and Glenfern Walk.

  • Extended quad track to improve access for tree planting and restoration.

  • Continued with feral cat control.


  • Completed handrails and boardwalk to specified engineering regulations.

  • Extended/improved quad track to minimise erosion and improve access.

  • Planted pateke ponds with native species.

  • Established rodent bait stations along tracks and around houses.

  • Discovered black petrel pair in tree along Glenfern Walk.


  • Installed 100m x 50m grid of rat bait stations, expanded to a network of 517 stations and cat traps over the peninsula from 2001 to 2004.

  • Re-vegetated large pateke pond.

  • Received the Environment Initiatives Award from the ARC and DOC for contribution to the environment and promoting conservation on private land.

Glenfern from Port FitzRoy wharf.  Photo: Glenfern Sanctuary


  • Monitoring of black petrel pair/banding of chick.

  • Partnered other conservation projects on the island.

  • Extended rodent bait station network on Orama land.

  • Chevron Skink discovered in Glenfern.

  • Established bird count stations.


  • Installed four tracking tunnel lines to improve information on rat density.

  • Continued bird counts, rat and cat control and planting/revegetation.

  • Produced Chevron Skink t-shirts.

  • Targeted pigs.

  • Completed Glenfern Sanctuary brochure.

  • Fitzroy House available for rental to public.

  • First season of black petrel and Cook’s petrel monitoring program.


  • Extended rodent bait stations network into Kotuku Scenic Reserve.

  • Registered Glenfern Sanctuary as a Charitable Trust.

  • Established a QE II Open Space Covenant over 73% of the property.

  • Promoted guided walk through Sanctuary.


  • Reintroduced North Island robins to the Kotuku Peninsula in 2005 and 2009 (extinct on the island for 140 years).

  • Monitored the robins intensively including banding juveniles before fledging.

  • Continued black petrel and bird counts.

  • Continued rat/cat control, revegetation.

  • Involved local school children in the release of the robins and banding of the endangered black petrel chicks.

  • Produced T-shirts with robins, kaka and chevron skink.

  • Promoted pest proof fence and begun seeking funding.



  • Built a 2.06km pest-proof fence, produced DVD on construction and reasons for eradication of pests on the peninsula.

  • Ben Barr completed study of chevron skinks in Glenfern Sanctuary.

  • Produced brochures on robin project and the guided walk before/after pest fence.

  • Produced website for Glenfern Sanctuary with information on fence.

  • Published e-mail newsletters and articles promoting biodiversity enhancement.

Photo: Glenfern Sanctuary


  • Installed 50 x 50m grid of tracking tunnels across the 230ha peninsula for the identification of survivors and invaders.

  • Eradicated pests (rabbits, rats, mice) with two aerial bait drops.

  • Implemented Biosecurity Re-invasion Plan, started monitoring for survivors/invaders.

  • Built an Interpretive Display Centre for educating visitors on the history and operation of the Sanctuary.

North Island Robin - the first robins were
released in Glenfern Sanctuary in 2005.


  • Extended fence along Port Fitzroy to assist with preventing rat invasions.

  • Continued rodent monitoring.


  • Changed pest monitoring regime to pulsed baiting/trapping network of 1400 bait stations/tunnels, instigated ArcGIS to interpret results.

  • Completed second pateke pond, ducks now successfully breeding.


  • Introduced self-guided tour to increase visitation.

  • Began establishing a second trail to extend public access .

  • Initiated restoration of paddock to kauri liaising with Outdoor Pursuits Centre (OPC) students in sustainability program.

  • Translocated 25 North Island robins.

  • Produced new website and newsletter.

  • Recorded second brood of pateke ducklings from orphaned ducklings released in 2011.


  • Completed stage 1 of pateke wetland restoration liaising with OPC.

  • Constructed Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund Rehabilitation Aviary.

  • Carried out second season of petrel monitoring program.

  • Formation of Kotuku Peninsula Charitable Trust to secure and continue Kotuku Peninsula Sanctuary independent of Bouzaid property ownership.

  • Shearing shed converted into volunteer accommodation

  • Awarded international tourism award - Society of American Travel Writers Phoenix Award.

  • Undertook kaka study liaison with Auckland University.

  • Undertook native bird study liaison with GBI Environmental Trust.


  • Internship established to up-skill graduates to improve transition to employment.

  • Completed Kotuku Environmental Plan to guide ongoing restoration and future directions of the Sanctuary.

  • Created environmental education curriculum with OPC for new programs to be run partly within the sanctuary.

  • Produced childrens’ ‘Discover Glenfern’ activity sheet and signage.


  • Produced Kotuku Peninsula Sanctuary sign for installation at Orama.

  • Completed stage 2 of pateke wetland restoration liaising with OPC.

  • Finalised business plan for Glenfern Sanctuary, audited and approved.


30 June, Bouzaid land purchased by Auckland Council through joint funding by council, Nature Heritage Fund and Foundation North.

Environmental News Issue 36 Winter 2016