Oral Histories


These recordings and transcripts may be accessed for research or educational purposes only. They may not be used for commercial purposes. 

There can be NO publication of the recordings or the accompanying material without prior written permission from the Chair of the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi. 

To listen to the audio, click on the image and it will play on youtube.

To read the transcript, click the dark green button to download the pdf.

Ray and Barbara Walter

Ray Walter was the last lighthouse keeper and first ranger on Tiritiri Matangi, responsible for coordinating and planning the replanting community project that helped restore the natural vegetation and reforestation of the island. Ray remained on Tiritiri until his retirement in 2006, and continued to visit and work on the island as a volunteer until the end of his life. 

Barbara Walter joined Ray on Tiritiri Matangi in the early days of the planting project and has been a passionate advocate for the fauna and flora ever since. She helped develop the volunteering ethos of the island, and established the guiding programme, took charge of many part of island life until her retirement with Ray, and continued to guide and help with the birds for many years after. She remains a vital part of the Tiritiri community. 

In this collection of interviews, Ray and Barbara talk about their earlier lives and how then found their way to their home and extended family on Tiritiri Matangi. Ray talks about his experiences as a lighthouse keeper around Aotearoa New Zealand and together they discuss the planting years, the development of the island and the reintroduction of fauna.

John Craig and Neil Mitchell

In this recording, the two original co-designers of the Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary talk together about the start of the project and their ecological work. They reflect on the challenges faced in those early years, mistakes made, lessons learned and share some insights into the future of conservation and similar projects today.

Professor John Craig

Professor John Craig (conservation biologist, ecological architect) is a co-designer of Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary. He is a past professor of Environmental Management and Deputy Dean of Science at the University Auckland, and now an ecological consultant. In this recording, Professor Craig talks about his experiences at Tiritiri and how the project got started and evolved.

Dr Neil Mitchell

Botanist and ecologist Dr Neil Mitchell specialises in northern New Zealand ecosystems. He lectured and conducted research at the University of Auckland, and is now an independent consultant ecologist. He was a co-designer of the Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary and has expertise in the restoration of plant systems to restore and create habitats suitable for birdlife. In these recordings, Dr Neil discusses his involvement with the Tiritiri project, shares some memories about his time and work on the island, and his thoughts about the future of conservation.

Jan Velvin

Jan Velvin is a commercial horticulturalist and plant propagator with over forty years experience in the industry. Jan became involved with the Tiritiri Matangi replanting project in the late 1980s and has been a vital part of the island community ever since. A regular planter and attendee of working weekends, Jan became a guide early on and helped with many bird projects on Tiritiri for many years. Now involved with the NZ Dotterel, Jan still visits Tiritiri and speaks to new guides to help them stay connected to the stories and memories of the project’s important history. In these recordings, Jan talks about her introduction to Tiritiri Matangi, what it was like getting involved, and some of her experiences.