Our history, present and future

Sanctuary Mountain® Maungatautari began with a dream to protect the plant and animal species living on Maungatautari. This ancient eco-system has been recognised as a reserve since 1912 and nearly 90 years later the community came together to restore and protect this precious environment with a pest-proof fence.

A condensed history of our maunga

A vision transformed into a reality


It takes a special group of people with strong vision, purpose and leadership to make a project like this get off the ground. If not for the coming together of iwi, landowners, residents, council and community the sanctuary would never have achieved the scale that it has.  It wasn't easy, there were hurdles that took maverick mindsets to navigate.  We are grateful to the pioneers such as David Wallace and the community for making the vision and reality. The enormity of the project is something you can only fully appreciate once you see it.

Building the Fence


In 2001 Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust (MEIT) was formed when the community came together with an aim to restore and protect Maungatautari's precious ecosystem.

In 2002 the fence build got underway and by 2004 all mammals were eradicated from the initial two enclosures.  By 2006 the entire mountain, roughly 3400 hectares, was eradicated of mammals except for mice and the translocation programmes were underway.

The Enclosures


The southern enclosure, Te Tūī a Tāne, is the largest of the three enclosures, at 65 hectares. The name Te Tūī a Tāne means ‘the weaving together of all things Tāne’ where Tāne is the god of the forest. This name reflects our intention to re-create a functioning forest ecosystem. Our facilities are based at this enclosure. There is also an events centre in the forest and a 16m viewing tower.

The northern enclosure was the first area fenced when the project began. To celebrate its completion 3,000 school children and supporters held hands around the enclosure, this action also symbolising the bringing together of the community. There are minimal facilities at the northern enclosure but the bush walks make a lovely day trip.

The Tautari wetland enclosure is found at the southern side of Maungatautari. This offers visitors the opportunity to see a live functioning wetland eco-system. Before the arrival of humans, the bush line extended much further down the mountain, gradually merging into other ecosystems. The bush line’s current altitude commenced with the arrival of Europeans, who used the newly exposed land for intensive agriculture. Eighty percent of wetlands in the Waikato region were destroyed for agricultural use due to the drained soil being very fertile. The Tauroa family generously gifted the wetland to the Trust in 2005. Shortly after, the three hectares were surrounded by an X-cluder pest-proof fence. The species now thriving in the Tautari wetland include takahē, banded kōkopu, giant kōkopu (native NZ fish) and tuna (longfin eel).

A separate section of the Tautari wetland has been transformed into a purpose-built home for tuatara. To create suitable habitat, this area has been covered in wood chip mulch to provide a litter layer for insects (tuatara food) and planted to provide shade for the creatures when required. A boardwalk and viewing platform have also been constructed and waterways created. Tuatara were extinct on mainland New Zealand by the time Europeans arrived here. These fascinating creatures are a direct link back to the time of the dinosaurs.


Come and Visit Us!

Endangered bird reserve
Our Wildlife

Bird sanctuary for endangered species, Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is home to kiwi & takahē.

Our Flora

Filled with ancient forest both the canopy and ground of the sanctuary provides insight of a time long past.

Sanctuary isn't far away!

Just an hour from Hobbiton, Waitomo and the Hamilton Gardens, Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is a perfect stop on your trip!