One of the founders of ZEALANDIA Eco-sanctuary, Jim Lynch (left), with Greater Wellington Regional Councillor Thomas Nash.
One of the founders of region's beloved ZEALANDIA Eco-sanctuary, Jim Lynch, gave a talk at the Greater Wellington Regional Council on Thursday discussing how the ambitious idea came to life, and his new book ZEALANDIA: The Valley that Changed a Nation.
A crowd of conservation enthusiasts heard about the trials and tribulations that were the beginnings of the sanctuary in the early 90s, which Jim now refers to as "the valley of views".
"Community conservation was a brand new thing back then… we wanted to focus on urban conservation because there was almost no conservation happening in urban areas.
"We also wanted to create a fenced eco-sanctuary to restore the most threatened species in the mainland," Jim says.
In 1990 there was just 200 hectares of mature forest on the Wellington Peninsula, nine species of forest birds and only 10 per cent of it was protected for biodiversity.
"Now there are 1000 hectares of mature forest, 3000 hectares of regenerated forest and shrub land, 19 species of forest birds and 90 per cent is protected for biodiversity."
From humble beginnings where almost everyone in the 'Natural Wellington' team was a volunteer, ZEALANDIA has captured the imagination of New Zealanders with 10,000 members, over 600 active volunteers and 150,000 visitors annually.
"I wanted to have a Kapiti Island in the middle of the capital city," says Jim who spoke of the difficulties in getting everyone on board and backing a plan of what was a first for the nation in terms of conservation.
"This was the first time there had been properly planned urban conservation. We looked at all the best prospects around the city and identified 37 conservation sites across 4000 hectares."
Jim watched the minds of Wellingtonians and local politicians change over the years to be more concerned with biodiversity and protecting our native flora and fauna.
"The Wellington City Council has always been very supportive of ZEALANDIA …and the support that Greater Wellington Regional Council gives to biodiversity is rock solid.
"The regional council is way ahead of the pack in terms of biodiversity and conservation work."
Jim says ZEALANDIA is radically different to 20 years ago with 12 species of pest removed from the sanctuary in about four months with the help of Greater Wellington's biosecurity team being "the first operation of its type in the world".
"There has also been 16 successful translocations, including the 60 titipounamu that were translocated from the Wainuiomata Mainland Island last year. ZEALANDIA have banded about 45 of their chicks this year. Now 89 per cent of the birds in the valley are native."
Jim says his book is a tribute to all the people who put their time and effort into making ZEALANDIA the popular sanctuary it is today. "This book is a tribute to the army."
ZEALANDIA: The Valley that Changed a Nation can be found at Unity Books.