Taranaki’s only pest-free sanctuary is in South Taranaki

Located 12km’s east of Eltham, Rotokare Scenic Reserve is a stunning 230 ha forested hill-country catchment, including extensive wetlands and 17.8ha natural lake. First gazetted for protection in the 1880’s, Rotokare has been a popular recreation site for the local community ever since.


Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust was formed in 2004 by a group of locals concerned that the habitat at Rotokare was in a state of decline. Importantly, this group was made-up of people who joined together with conservation and recreation interests. By 2006, a feasibility study was undertaken to look at options for a fully-fenced pest-proof environment. With the help of the South Taranaki District Council, TSB Community Trust, central government and the local community, the 8.2 km specially designed, pest-proof sanctuary fence and 12 species mammalian pest eradication were completed in Spring 2008. Thus creating Taranaki’s only pest-free environment (an example of what the Predator-free 2050 goal might one-day achieve).


The resulting regeneration of the native forest and thriving wildlife makes this site unique as a visitor destination and as a haven for rare and endangered indigenous species. Rotokare Sanctuary is an ideal site for species recovery, which will have long tern benefits throughout Taranaki.


Notable ecological restorations achievements to date

  • 2012 - Kiwi reintroduced - creating genetically unrelated breeding population with a goal to restore kiwi in Taranaki (the first harvest of an ongoing annual programme of returning kiwi to the wider region will be undertaken by 2020).

  • 2014 – Tieke (saddleback) and popokatea (whitehead) reintroduced to Rotokare – the reintroduction of tieke was a significant milestone for Taranaki, returning a species extinct to the region for c150 years.

  • 2014 – Dactylanthus taylorii (endangered parasitic plant) translocated to Rotokake.

  • 2015 – Halo predator-control project launched – goal of c4,000 hectares surrounding sanctuary of intense trapping to protect spill-over of vulnerable indigenous bird species.

  • Ranger employed to support Halo Project and sanctuary infrastructure.

  • 2017 – Hihi (stitch bird) reintroduced to Rotokare – c130 years following regional extinction.

  • 2017 – Toutouwai (North Island robin) supplementary translocation to Rotokare to improve genetic diversity of population.

  • 2017 – the first bird translocation from Rotokare undertaken – fernbird went to community restoration project in Pauatahanui (a second translocation took place in 2018, the in 2019 fernbird were translocated to Mana Island).

  • 2018 - Wetlands boardwalk and pontoon complete, enhancing visitor experience of the site.

  • 2018 – Additional translocation of hihi to Rotokare, & 1st hihi hatched in Taranaki for c130 years.

  • 2018 – Halo project establishment complete, covering over 4,000 hectares including collaboration with other local groups and over 15 private landowners.

  • 2019 - A further 2 bird species reintroduced to Rotokare – Pāteke (brown teal) returned to Taranaki since regional extinction c100 years ago, and titipounamu (rifleman) translocated from Mt Taranaki to Rotokare (the first bird translocation from Mt Taranaki in history plus making Rotokare one of few sites where all four surviving native song-bird families are represented).

HHS Alumni Involvement

None of this success would have been possible without an enormous effort by our community and volunteers. Hawera High School Alumni are among those who have dedicated many hours of toil, skill and knowledge to the project. Including:


Alan Rogers. Alan received a South Taranaki District Council Volunteer Award in 2018 for his thousands of hours voluntary work at the sanctuary. Alan’s favourite tasks include checking hihi nest boxes for new eggs and chicks in the spring, setting out tracking tunnels and bird translocations.


Audrey Thompson (HHS teacher 1976 – 2011)

Audrey brought classes to Rotokare Scenic Reserve before and after the predator-proof fence was erected. She started volunteering at the reserve in 2008. Audrey is involved with the environmental education programme, minutes secretary, landscaping public areas and cleaning. Audrey made all the wooden hihi nest boxes and particularly enjoyed the opportunity to be involved in hihi and toutouwai translocations. Audrey is a Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust Life member.


David McCallum.

David has been part of our essential biosecurity crew. He enjoys checking tunnel tracking cards.


We thank you and all the other Hawera High School Alumni who help and visit Rotokare Scenic Reserve. Our focus continues to be the sanctuary, our community and sustainability.

We welcome Hawera High School alumni to visit



Rotokare Scenic Reserve is free to enter and open to the public all day, every day. We welcome day visitors and freedom campers from near and far.


Plan to make a visit soon and see things you can’t see anywhere else in Taranaki.


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