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 and the News section 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 native plant 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).
Photo: © Andy McArthur
Photo: © Kathy Ombler
Photo: © Kathy Ombler
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. Allan Mere Award 2022 (NZ Botanical Society award recognizing outstanding New Zealand botanists).
Maggie Bayfield (Secretary): 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.
Tim Mason (Treasurer): Retired GP, keen amateur gardener, planter of trees and conservationist. Zealandia member.
Kevin O’Connor: Worked for the Department of Conservation for decades 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.
Susan Timmins: An ecologist who has worked for 40 years as a weed ecologist and science manager for the Department of Conservation. Having lived in Wadestown all this time, Susan has been a frequent visitor to Otari-Wilton’s Bush, loving the bush, also enjoying all the places for picnics and rambles when her children were young. She is recently retired and looking forward to having the time to help the Trust.
Annie Yeates: Chair of the Southern Environmental Association that oversees the ecological restoration of Tawatawa Reserve, on the Komiti of the Manawa Karioi Society at Tapu Te Ranga Marae and coordinates numerous predator pest trapping lines. Annie also helps with penguin protection on Wellington’s south coast and Matiu | Somes Island. Annie’s working life was in adult education and stakeholder management. Her most recent qualification is in Environmental Management.
Wilbur Dovey: Leader of the volunteer Kaiwharawhara revegetation project (since 2005).
Jane Humble: Coordinates the team of volunteer gardeners who help council staff care for the garden collections, also manages the Trust’s plant propagation project.
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.
Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush Fund
The Otari-Wilton’s Bush Fund has been established with the Nikau Foundation for the future of native plant conservation at Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush. It aims to build a reliable funding stream, in perpetuity, to support the long-term vision of the Trust. Through the Fund, the Trust will support Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush across several aspects: building public awareness and appreciation of its special collection of native plants, assisting in conservation, developing educational opportunities and funding scientific research into native flora. You are welcome to contribute. Your donation will help to ensure that Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush continues to play an innovative, forward-thinking role in the conservation of New Zealand’s native flora, as it has for almost 100 years. You can donate to the Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush Fund in several ways.
Internet Banking: Westpac - Lambton Quay - 03 0502 0163248 001
Once you have donated, please let the Nikau Foundation team know by emailing with your name, address and noting that you would like to support the Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush Fund.
Donate online: You can make a donation online on Nikau Foundation’s website by visiting the page below: https://donorbox.org/otari-wiltons-bush-fund
Leave a gift in your will: Leaving a gift in your will is a powerful way to ensure that Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush continues to be enjoyed for generations to come.
To leave a bequest, please contact Nikau Foundation via .
Our Project: 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. Or you could even join them, should you wish! We’re always on the lookout for dedicated folk who’d like to learn about plants from the experts.
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.
Our ‘forest weeding’ group aims to control the spread of ecological weeds throughout Ōtari’s native forest. Ōtari staff provide guidance, tools, gloves and weed bags, they’ll also oversee safety and health procedures. You will need to be reasonably fit, have sturdy footwear and old clothes, and enjoy good camaraderie. Bring your own snacks, we stop for morning tea in the bush. The group meets on the first and third Thursday every month, 9am to midday.
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.
Books and cards - our merchandise
All of these are for sale at the Tāne Whakapiripiri Visitor Centre. Just ask our weekend hosts. Or email
Nature Guide to the New Zealand Forest, by John Dawson and Rob Lucas (Godwit, 2000) $50
Eminent botanist and former Trust chair, 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.
Drawings from Ōtari, by Eleanor Burton $20
Eleanor is one of New Zealand’s notable botanical artists. She also manages Ōtari’s plant collections’ database. See some of Eleanor’s drawings here.
Ōtari: Two hundreds years of Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush
A Trust project, written by Bee Dawson, illustrations by Chris Coad (The Cuba Press, 2022) $80
Trees and their Bark, by John and Bunny Mortimer (Taitua Books 2004) $15
All the wonderful colours and textures of bark, along with some whimsy, fable, verse and little known anecdotes. This is a book for all tree lovers.
New Zealand’s Native Trees (revised edition)
By John Dawson and Rob Lucas (Potton and Burton, 2012) $120
Ōtari Path Names (and map) 1926 to 1965, by Rodney Lewington. $15
Botanist Rodney Lewington was a driving force for the Trust for many years and, in 2019, was posthumously awarded the Allan Mere for his contribution to botany in New Zealand. This booklet describes the path names in the early years of the gardens and reserve.
We also have a gorgeous stock of greeting cards ($5)
Name your season, your colour, your flower - chances are we’ll find a card for you!
With wisdom, foresight and resolve, our Foundation Trustees compiled a Trust Deed that remains as relevant today as it was in 2001. The purposes of the Trust are clearly set out. Read the Deed here: 19_10_trust_deed.pdf (PDF, 709.70 kB) .