Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush Trust is a public charitable trust made up of people who care deeply about the preservation of this internationally significant native botanic garden and forest reserve. Members include families, retirees, keen gardeners, walkers, photographers, botanists and conservationists. Many are active volunteers – brought together by the common purpose of sustaining Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush for future generations. Check out Facebook and Instagram for our latest news.
- Botanists, ecologists, home gardeners, parents, families
- More than 100 volunteers
- Passionate about Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush
- Guided tours and seminars: meet the glow worms, find our fungi…
- Building awareness of our unique collections
- Helping conservation science
What we do
- Support Wellington City Council in its management of Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush
- Build public awareness and appreciation of Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush, native plants and their conservation through talks, guided tours, seminars, weekend hosting and open days
- Assist the restoration and enhancement of Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush through weeding, revegetation, seed collection and predator control
- Advocate for Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush and native plant conservation nationwide
- Encourage scientific research relating to native plants and the collections at Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush
- Foster understanding of the history of Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush, and of the visionaries who created and nurtured this unique native botanic garden and forest reserve.
Our elected Board of Trustees manages a programme of volunteer restoration work, guiding activities and fundraising events. The Trust belongs to the NZ Plant Conservation Network (NZPCN).
Carol West (Chair): Plant ecologist, retired from the Department of Conservation where she worked in national science research and management roles. A member of the Wellington Botanical Society, New Zealand Botanical Society, New Zealand Plant Conservation Network, New Zealand Ecological Society and Zealandia.
Wilbur Dovey (Secretary): Foundation Trust member, leader of the Kaiwharawhara revegetation project since 2005, and engaged in many other Trust roles. Formerly worked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and more recently the Department of Conservation undertaking CITES work. Now retired. A member of the Wellington Botanical Society and Zealandia.
Tim Mason (Treasurer): Retired GP, keen amateur gardener, planter of trees and conservationist. Zealandia member.
Jane Humble: Retired Medical Laboratory Scientist, specialising in Virology and Immunology. Volunteer in the Herbarium at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, botanical artist and a member of the Wellington Botanical Society.
Maggie Bayfield: Background in ecological surveys, assessments and funding. Experience in governance in both the government and voluntary sectors, including past Chair of Taranaki/Wanganui Conservation Board, member of NZ Conservation Authority, and Chair of QE II National Trust.
Kevin O’Connor: Worked for the Department of Conservation for 43 years in a range of operational, leadership and governance roles around the country, including close liaison with iwi and communities. For the last six years of his working career helped create the new Fire and Emergency NZ. Recently retired, has a keen interest in New Zealand’s biodiversity and backcountry and is a Backcountry Trust (BCT) Trustee.
Justin Nacey: Project manager for over 15 years in the banking, insurance, IT and government sectors. Justin is experienced in delivering large scale and complex projects with skills in planning, financial management, risk management, stakeholder engagement and general communications.
Kathy Ombler: Freelance writer focusing on conservation and outdoor recreation. Author of walking, birding and national park guidebooks. Part time English teacher for immigrant community. An Ōtari RAMBO volunteer and helps on traplines at Te Ahumairangi, Baring Head and Remutaka Forest Park.
Ōtari: Two hundred years of Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush
The Trust commissioned social historian, Bee Dawson, to write a history of Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush, and photographer, Chris Coad, to illustrate the tome. The result is a lively, informative and beautifully produced 226-page account of the history of our special place. The story begins with iwi involvement then early farming in the area. It moves on to describe the development of the native botanic garden and preservation of 100 hectares of forest - and the people involved - to become the Garden of International Significance we know today. Archival research, anecdotal evidence, and personal, first hand stories, along with historic illustrations and stunning colour images from Chris Coad all feature. Ōtari was officially launched on November 17. The recommended retail price is $80. Ōtari can be purchased from our weekend hosts at Tāne Whakapiripiri Visitor Centre (11am to 4pm Saturdays and Sundays). It is also available from leading bookstores.
Moko viewing platform
Moko is the name for the majestic and much visited 800 (+) year old rimu tree, who stands tall on the higher slopes of Ōtari. In 2019 a viewing platform was built at the base of Moko to protect the roots of this forest giant. This project was a partnership between the Trust and Wellington City Council. A plaque on the platform commemorates the contribution made by local resident, Bob Fantl, in saving a swathe of Ōtari forest from destruction. Following his death, in 2016, the Fantl family gave a bequest to the Trust that contributed towards the building of the platform. There’s a seat on the platform, it’s the perfect spot to rest, and contemplate.
Ōtari’s plant collections represent a treasure chest of New Zealand’s native flora, including some of our rarest species. Thus they deserve much tender love and care and this is where our Trust volunteers have stepped up. For more than 20 years a group of avid gardeners, between them sharing a wealth of botanical knowledge, has assisted with the weeding and maintenance of the collections. They’re there for four hours, every Thursday morning, say hello if you see them.
We always welcome new supporters. Your membership helps us to help Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush, whether it’s a simple financial donation from your subscription or more active involvement as a volunteer. All members receive the quarterly Trust newsletter and invitations to join our regular guided walks and seminar programmes. Annual memberships range from $20 (individual) to $30 (double/family or corporate). Want to join?
Once you’re a Trust member, you are welcome to become a volunteer. Several opportunities are made available by the Trust and WCC Ōtari staff for our Ōtari community. Some roles are led by the Trust, some by a mix of the Trust and staff. You can choose any activity that interests you, offer as little or as much time as you like and we’ll help you get started. You’ll work with like-minded people plus you’ll learn about Ōtari’s native flora, history and plant conservation.
What can you do?
The Trust regularly hosts guided tours, for groups such as garden clubs and cruise ship passengers, and for this we rely on volunteer guides. Full training is given. Tours last from one to two hours and you’ll work in teams of two or more, depending on the size of the group. Most tours are in summer, there is no set schedule or frequency, we just arrange them as required. It’s a great way of sharing the good word about Ōtari, improving your own knowledge, and meeting interesting folk.
Revegetation and restoration
Restoration of the Kaiwharawhara Stream valley in Ōtari is ongoing. Work involves planting native trees, release weeding around recent plantings and removing other nasty weeds (tradescantia, Darwin’s barberry and more), at times on steep, muddy ground. You’ll need boots, old clothes and gloves. Be prepared to get dirty, all great fun! The group meets at 9am, on the second Saturday of each month, and works for at least two hours before breaking for a cuppa and a chat.
Weeding and plant collection care
Volunteer gardeners assist staff with weeding and maintenance in the native plant collections, every Thursday morning for four hours. Plant knowledge is helpful but not essential, our Ōtari staff can give you guidance. Sometimes, if the weather isn’t so nice, there can be other interesting jobs to help with.
Our volunteer hosts are both ambassadors for Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush and a welcoming face for the Trust. Based at the Tāne Whakapiripiri/Ōtari Visitor Centre, the role includes greeting visitors, answering queries, suggesting things to do and see, and selling greeting cards and books. Hosts are rostered (in pairs) for morning or afternoon shifts (2.5 hours) on Saturdays or Sundays. Although flexible, we do prefer hosts to commit to one shift per month. If you’re a people person, and love to share your knowledge about our tracks, plants and birdlife, this will suit you well.
Volunteers monitor a network of traplines throughout Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush plus neighbouring reserves and farmland. We catch mainly rats, also mustelids, hedgehogs, possums and sometimes rabbits. You’ll check, rebait and reset traps and remove dead animals as required - it pays not to be too squeamish. Also a bit of tramping experience helps, some traps are a bit off track and the terrain can be steep and muddy. Lines take one to two hours to get around and are checked every 2 to 3 weeks. Many lines are shared so you might only need to go out once every six weeks or so, but we do ask for a regular commitment. Training, tools and bait are provided, and we register all catches on the national Trap.NZ website.
Interested in any of these? Email . We’d love to hear from you.
Nature Guide to the New Zealand Forest, by John Dawson & Rob Lucas (Godwit, 2000)
One of our former Trust chairs and eminent Ōtari tour guide, the late Dr John Dawson, wrote several excellent books during his distinguished career as a botanist. This one is perhaps the most informative in helping people understand New Zealand’s forests. The following words, from the introduction, are worth reading:
“There’s no doubt that New Zealand’s forests are unique. There are plenty of convincing statistics to support this: although our forests are located in temperate latitudes, they have an almost tropical feel; of our 2,500 native species of conifers, flowering plants and ferns, over 80% occur nowhere else in the world; our forests have evolved in complete isolation for many millions of years; they contain animals unique to New Zealand alone….
Statistics are all very well, but most people who spend time in the bush are attracted by less tangible things such as the unique spirit of the place. To them, our forests look, feel and smell special. They constitute a unique experience we cannot replicate elsewhere, no matter where we travel on the globe.”
John was also the designer of Ōtari’s very special Treasure Trail, which he created to showcase some of the most interesting and unique plants in our garden collections. Pick up a Treasure Trail brochure and explore our special plants. The book, Nature Guide to the New Zealand Forest, is also available for purchase from our weekend hosts at the Tāne Whakapiripiri Visitor Centre.