Appendix 6: About the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust

Principles for effectively co-governing natural resources.

Type of arrangement

The Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust is a charitable trust.


Maungatautari is a 3400-hectare forested mountain in Waikato, east of Te Awamutu and south-east of Cambridge and Hamilton. The ecological island surrounds the mountain with a 47-kilometre pest-proof fence. The island includes private land and a scenic reserve of about 2530 hectares. The scenic reserve is owned by the communities of Maungatautari. Te Hapori o Maungatautari is the registered proprietor, although not a legal entity, established to represent the owners and to assist Waipa District Council to carry out its function as the administering body.

Within the 3400 hectares of sanctuary are three enclosures: the Northern Enclosure, the Southern Enclosure (Te Tui a Taane), and the Tautari Wetland. The Northern and Southern Enclosures were developed in 2004 as trial areas to prove that a pest-proof fence could be built and maintained in tall forest. The rest of the island was then fully enclosed.

The 65-hectare Southern Enclosure, Te Tui a Taane, is the largest of the three enclosures and is the centre of activity for the reintroduction of native species and visitors to the mountain.


The scenic reserve on Maungatautari Mountain was originally set aside for "climatic and conservation purposes" in 1927.

The project was the idea of a local farmer, David Wallace, who first put a predator-proof fence around about 17 acres of his own land. He then had the idea of building a fence around the mountain to restore the forest ecosystem and reintroduce to the mountain species that became locally extinct.

Mr Wallace was able to galvanise the community into backing his idea of an ecological sanctuary. He had the support of two local farmers, one of whom was the "test" case for having a section of fence erected on their land. These farmers also helped to consult other landowners and mana whenua.

Support for protecting Maungatautari led to the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust being set up in 2001. The original trustees included Mr Wallace, the two farmers, a Hamilton kaumātua, the Mayor of Waipa District Council, and the Waikato Conservator for the Department of Conservation. The board of the Trust was meant to represent the iwi and the community. The trust deed stated that, within three months of the date of the deed, the original trustees had to call for nominations and appointments to the board, which was to consist of 10-16 people.

Mr Wallace was described to us as visionary and inspirational. He was well connected and knew how to tap into the community interests, as well as corporate support. The Trust raised $14.5 million for the fence project.

However, the project has been described as "fraught from the beginning". A community with little understanding of some major matters drove the initiative. At first, the Trust had said it would not build the fence unless it had the commercial support to build and maintain the fence. This was based on an expectation that tourism and associated income streams could cover ongoing operational and development costs. However, as the parties have stated, a large and complex project such as this was never going to be self-sustaining financially. The Trust decided that it had to start building the fence to maintain the momentum of and community interest in the project. This meant that it started without securing all the funding and, more importantly, without securing access rights across private land to maintain the fence.

The owners, by allowing a fence to be built on their land, had agreed to the existence of the fence and the inclusion of their private land in the restoration project, and to the Trust having access to their property to maintain the fence. However, these agreements were not formalised before the fence was built.

Landowners were made aware that they could apply to Waipa District Council for subdivision and development entitlements to recognise their contributions. Three criteria were developed to award these entitlements. These were:

  • for allowing the fence to be built on their property (length of fence);
  • for offering land to be included into the restoration project (area of land); and
  • for providing public access (length of access).

Some of the landowners began to realise the negative aspects of having the sanctuary on their farm, such as the increase in traffic, people driving through their property, and other activity around their farms, including volunteers using poisons. There was also the question of who was liable for volunteers' actions if an incident happened on private land.

These matters "highlighted the need for a formal type of agreement between the landowners and the Trust". However, as one landowner pointed out, they could not guarantee permanent or automatic access. Landowners needed to retain the right to ban people from their property as needed. Any new owners should also have the ability to renegotiate access rights. Initially, the Trust promoted the need to have a covenant over the fence that gave rights of access to maintain the fence. However, the landowners were concerned that including a right of access would mean losing control of the land, which in turn could decrease land values.

Another matter arose about the Trust carrying out commercial activities within the reserve (such as charging entrance fees and for guiding). Some of the owners within the Southern enclosure felt entitled to be paid if their land was being used to take paying customers to the reserve land. The misunderstandings about access rights and differing aspirations for economic opportunities have resulted in various court actions.

Because the access matters were not agreed before the fence was built, Waipa District Council has had to get involved with negotiations with landowners. It has taken a lot more council involvement than was expected. The Council is negotiating landowner covenant and access agreements that can be used to secure the fence on their land and to allow access for fence maintenance. This is turn will enable landowners to apply for subdivision entitlements.


The vision for the Trust is "Kaitiakitanga – Protecting our past for the future". The mission and purpose of the Trust is stated on its website as to "remove forever, or control, introduced mammalian pests and predators from Maungatautari and restore to the forest a healthy diversity of indigenous plants and animals".

Composition of membership

In 2012, the trust deed was amended to give effect to a co-governance structure. Each of the three parties (mana whenua, landowners, and community members) can have up to five representatives on the board of trustees and the board is co-chaired by a mana whenua representative and a landowner representative.

For the purposes of clarity, the board has a co-governance structure, while the Trust effectively co-manages the scenic reserve with Waipa District Council.

Several people are uncertain what effect the Ngāti Koroki Kahukura Claims Settlement Act 2014 will have on the co-management arrangement. This Act transfers ownership of the Maungatautari Mountain Scenic Reserve to the communities of Maungatautari, represented by Te Hapori o Maungatautari. The authorised representatives of Te Hapori o Maungatautari are the Mayor of Waipa District Council and the chairpersons of:

  • the Taumatawiwi Trust;
  • the Ngāti Hauā Iwi Trust;
  • the Raukawa Settlement Trust; and
  • Te Arataura.

Waipa District Council remains the administering and management body for the reserve. The Council is working to bring the parties together to clarify their respective roles and responsibilities. The Settlement Act required the Council to review the Reserve Management Plan as required under the Reserves Act 1977. The parties maintained that the plan provides both the Council and the Trust with clear direction in terms of operational policy.


The Trust reports to Waipa District Council under its contract for services agreement. It receives funding from the Council and Waikato Regional Council. The Trust reports on the expenditure to the Maungatautari Reserves Committee, which includes representatives of councils, the Department of Conservation, landowners, and iwi.

The regional council is seeking more rigorous reporting from the Trust on its activities, and a clear accountability framework. It is seeking to put into place a new reporting system where the regional council will get a direct report from the Trust.

Regional council staff told us that they are also helping the Trust to prepare a strategic plan to ensure that it remains viable.

The Trust provides:

  • newsletters (digital since December 2011);
  • biodiversity and pest reports; and
  • annual reports (from 2011/12 on the website) that include financial reporting and key results achieved.


The Maungatautari project is the largest fenced "mainland island" in New Zealand. The parties described it as an "ambitious community project that has demonstrated community commitment and resolve to protect a very significant and valued asset." They maintain that it is "an example of a functioning and successful co-governance structure that has endured criticism and a Treaty settlement process". They also see it as "a very significant contributor to the protection and restoration of [a] natural heritage".

Since the completion of the pest-proof fence in 2006, 14 pest mammals have been eradicated from the sanctuary. A total of 270 kilometres of tracking lines have been laid to create a network of 2700 monitoring tunnels, which are regularly inspected by volunteers to check the status of the eradication programme.

Pests that have been eradicated include hedgehogs, cats, Norway rats, ship rats, stoats, ferrets, weasels, rabbits, hares, possums, deer, pigs, and goats.

A range of species has been successfully reintroduced to the mountain, including Western Waikato kiwi, North Island kaka, takahe, hihi (stitchbird), tieke (saddleback), tuatara, and endangered native fish species such as giant and banded kokopu. Kiwi are likely to become numerous enough to provide stock to other areas.

Because of the eradication of mammalian pests, many native plants are flourishing on the maunga, providing a valuable food source for re-introduced species. One survey found that the number of native beetles in the Southern enclosure had increased by at least 300% in the first two years since the area was enclosed and completely cleared of pests.

In 2009, the Global Restoration Network judged the Maungatautari Ecological Island to be one of Australasia's Top 25 ecological restoration projects. The Sanctuary Mountain website states that it is known as a project of international significance and has received recognition from many leading botanists and researchers.

The Trust has set up a "learning experiences" outside the classroom programme funded by the Ministry of Education at the sanctuary. It has been described as successful.