New eco-sanctuary on Great Barrier Island a conservationist's paradise


For the first time, the public will be able to visit a stunning ecological sanctuary on Great Barrier Island.

The Glenfern Sanctuary in Port Fitzroy has been in private ownership for the past 24 years, but a trio of organisations has raised close to $3 million to buy it.

A predator-proof fence protects a number of threatened species at the latest addition to Auckland's regional park network.

Glenfern Sanctuary is a picturesque hideaway -- an 83 hectare family farm that's gradually been transformed into a conservationist's paradise.

The work of Kiwi yachtsman Tony Bouzaid, who died in 2011, was recognised on Friday with a $2.9 million deal between the Government, Auckland City Council and a private foundation, which will see the land opened to the public.

"[It's] a very exciting thing for Aucklanders and for all New Zealanders," mayor Len Brown says. "It's significant on a national scale."

Mr Bouzaid's vision was to restore the dawn chorus he'd heard fade during his years sailing in the Hauraki Gulf.

His daughter, Tanya Parsons, says he'd be honoured his work will be continued.

"I think he'd be ecstatic today if he could look down," she says.

"I think he'd be really happy. It would be his wildest dream come true."

Sixty percent of Great Barrier Island is conservation estate, with the Glenfern Sanctuary making up a crucial slice of the 240 hectare Kotuku Peninsula.

Previously farmland, it's slowly been returned to native bush while a predator-proof fence keeps out rats and feral cats.

Glenfern is home to threatened native species like pāteke -- the brown teal -- kākā and chevron skinks, but there are no kiwi anywhere on Great Barrier Island.

In fact, there's no scientific evidence there ever have been. But with steps forward in conservation like this, could there be?

"You could, you could, that's a decision to be made in terms of what's the best mix of conservation initiatives for the island," says Peter Tuinder, Department of Conservation partnership manager.

"Oh yes, absolutely, we are looking for this as a pest-free zone and we would love to see kiwis on this island as we have them on Motutapu," Mr Brown says.

Currently Great Barrier Island is only visited by around 50,000 tourists a year but it's hoped this newest park will see those numbers increase.