Stitchbird at Zealandia, Wellington © Joao Inacio

Zealandia: the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary


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Zealandia, formerly known as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, packs an awful lot into a relatively small (less than 2.6 square kilometres) space.

Its location is remarkable: a totally protected natural environment within the environs of Wellington itself. Ten minutes from the CBD, to not put too fine a point on it. Step outside the fortress-like pest-exclusion fence and you’re back in suburban Wellington: step within and you’re in a wildlife paradise.

That fence, a world first, is critical to the wellbeing of the whole sanctuary; completed in late 1999 it then gave rise to a millennial mammalian move-out, where 19 unwanted species got turfed so as to protect the hundreds of others in, and being introduced to, the park itself. Deer and mice got gone, and the flora and the fauna continued their recovery.

What’s really on display here is a 500-year vision to restore the city’s forest and freshwater ecosystems to their original state. Now that’s a strategic plan.

Pre-human occupancy is the objective, though we are allowed visiting rights. We strongly suggest you exercise them, and yourselves, because this is a wonderful oasis in the urban desert.

Species of native trees too numerous to mention are regenerating and 18 species of native wildlife have been reintroduced to the area, six of which had previously been absent from mainland New Zealand for over a century. You can spot tuatara, tūī and more: more birds, insects and other wildlife than you can shake a stick at. And don’t shake a stick, they’re friendly little guys here.

Worthy, wonderful, a wildlife walk that stretches to 30km of walking tracks. So get your boots on, but make sure you clean them thoroughly first. This is a pristine place.

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