Who We Are

We have a team of nearly 2,000 people who support the island in many ways; in governance, field work, guiding, and financially supporting the island’s many projects to ensure that we can build a world-class sanctuary for wildlife and visitors.

First established in 1988, the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi (SoTM) is a non-profit conservation group that works in partnership (link to Community Agreement) with the Department of Conservation to co-manage projects on the island. 

The Supporters played a critical role in creating the forested sanctuary that you see today (link) by working with DOC to plant over 280,000 native trees between 1984 and 1994 using a volunteer workforce. Over the past three decades, the Supporters organisation has worked on a number of translocation and capital projects.

SoTM Highlights

  • Funded and carried out the introduction of 12 bird species, three reptile species and one insect species, including kōkako, titipounamu/rifleman, Duvaucel’s gecko and wētāpunga. 
  • Funded, erected and maintained a range of interpretative signs to inform visitors about the island's fauna, flora and history. 
  • Built a Visitor Centre that houses informative displays about the island. 
  • Built an extensive vehicle and equipment storage facility. 
  • Purchased various vehicles including the island’s tractor, utility vehicle and trailer. 
  • Funded an annual weed management programme. 
  • Contributed to the funding of over 30 scientific research projects. (link)
  • Developed and maintained a programme of guided walks for visitors, with over 200 volunteer guides. 
  • Built and run a shop on the island, with all proceeds reinvested in the project.

Life Members

The Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi have recognised the huge contribution made by some of our volunteers over long periods of time by awarding them Life Membership. Our Life Members are:

  • Jim Battersby (2003) (deceased)
  • Ray and Barbara Walter (2003)
  • Mel Galbraith (2005)
  • Carl Hayson (2007)
  • Nan Rothwell (2012)
  • Isabel Still (2012)
  • Sally Hally (2012)
  • Simon Fordham (2013)
  • David Meldrum (2016)
  • Ian Higgins and Cathy Catto (2018)
  • Peter Lee (2022)
  • Yvonne Vaneveld (2023)

New Title

Ray Walter

Former lighthouse keeper, Ray Walter, is somewhat of a unicorn. Having spent 30 years in the lighthouse service, he made the switch to managing the nursery and – with his wife Barbara – recruited hordes of people to create tracks and re-forest Tiritiri Matangi. A self-avowed ‘non hermit’, Ray broke the mould of the lighthouse keeper stereotype when he discovered the Tiritiri lighthouse would be automated, and in 1980 he became the first ranger on the island. Since then, Ray has spearheaded the project with his wife Barbara, building the nursery, gathering seeds from the islands around the Hauraki gulf, cutting tracks and starting the guiding programme. Ray and Barbara retired from DOC in July 2006.

Barbara Walter

The organisational might behind the creation of this sanctuary lies firmly with Barbara, who brought over thousands of Aucklanders and school children to re-plant the island throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. Barbara joined her husband Ray on the island in 1984 and played a significant role in organising this hardy ‘spade brigade’ to re-forest the island at a time when there was no regular ferry. The role as a ranger’s wife proved to be busy, with Barbara juggling all number of tasks. On any one day you could find her working at the shop, managing overnight bookings at the bunkhouse, teaching correspondence school or organising a busy programme of working bees. After an hour of planting, all volunteers were given a tour of the island by Ray or Barbara, and soon mainlanders were fighting over space on the boat. Once the island was forested, Barbara helped to turn these tree planters into a group of dedicated guides who help to tell the story of Tiritiri to visitors. The creation of the sanctuary and the dedicated troupe of guides who tell its story has created a legacy which will surely last as long as the island itself.

Talia Hochwimmer | DOC Ranger

Talia describes her life as a ranger as pinchingly ‘dream-like’. Once an IT professional, she threw herself into volunteering in a search for a career that aligned with her personal values. Before her time as a ranger on Tiritiri, she spent many winter nights listening out for kiwi calls on Motuihe, checking traplines in the Waitakeres and helping to translocate a special bunch of pōpokotea (whitehead) from Tiritiri Matangi to Ark in the Park. After a couple of years in biosecurity, she landed this ‘pipe dream’ position. In her role, she greets visitors, manages volunteers, provides supplementary feed for takahē and hihi, supports wildlife translocations and helps to ensure that all of the infrastructure is humming. Inspired by the human ground-force that turned this barren landscape into the forested sanctuary it is today, Talia is over the moon to be a vital part of this community-driven project which allows her to live with the birds.

Emma Dunning |  DOC Ranger

Twenty five years ago, Emma began a love affair with islands and she has been hopping throughout New Zealand’s island sanctuaries ever since. Over the years she’s worked and volunteered on a number of islands from Matiu/Somes, Mana, Kapiti, Rakiura, Kawau, Chathams, and has even managed to get to the wind-lashed Sub Antarctic islands of Enderby and Campbell Islands. “They have a special and unique energy to them. I like the way that people are connected to islands.” Her connection with Tiritiri started when her younger brother worked on the island, and since then it has held a special place in her heart. After completing a degree in Parks and Recreation Management, Emma worked as a ‘baby ranger’ in South Westland based at Fox Glacier. Since returning from overseas she has worked in a range of roles for DOC, which included a stint as a ranger on Wellington’s Matiu/Somes Island, where she was involved with a number of translocations including the Cook Strait giant wētā, fluttering shearwater, kākāriki/red crowned parakeet and spotted skink. On Tiritiri Matangi she is involved in all manner of things that keep the inland running, including day to day operations, managing volunteers and overseeing any translocations that take place on the island.

Barbara Hughes-Cleland | Educator

As an educator with over 30 years’ experience, a children’s book author, a guide and member of the Tiritiri Supporters since early 1990s, Barbara brings a wealth of experience to her role as a Tiritiri educator. Over the years, Barbara has worn many hats. As a volunteer, she led a team to bring 32 miromiro/North Island tomtit to the island in 2004. She later discovered that one bird had made its way 55 kilometres back to the Hunua ranges, a story which she penned into a book, Mr RG Tomtit (link) whilst on a Royal Society Teacher Fellowship. Her desire to stoke young people’s curiosity in the natural world is something that runs deep, and equipped with BSc Zoology (Otago) and MEd Hons (Massey), Barbara has taught biology/science across seven Auckland secondary schools, produced a suite of educational resources, and educated thousands of  students on Tiritiri Matangi since 2013. As well as sparking curiosity in nature, Barbara says it is important to show groups that it’s often ‘normal people’ with a certain mix of passion, grit and a steely determination that work to make these big ideas happen.

Liz Maire | Assistant Educator

In her role on Tiritiri Matangi, Liz develops educational resources, liaises with educators to enhance and develop the programme, and runs classes for primary school children. After 30 years of working as an environmental educator and facilitator, she says that seeing a kid’s face light up after an encounter with a bird, bug or botanical curiosity never grows old. By drawing on her skill-base in environmental education, communications and media, Liz has mastered the delicate art of seeding and supporting a raft of community conservation projects throughout the wider Auckland region. Liz currently delivers environmental education programmes for Auckland Council, Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi and The Forest Bridge Trust. She says that having a bush classroom is the best way to spark children’s curiosity as it draws on those often neglected sensory and tactile pathways to help create life-long learning.

Carl Hayson | Chairperson

Having assisted with the translocation of several of the precious birds that now live on Tiritiri Matangi, Carl has played an integral role in creating this world class sanctuary at all levels from governance to field work. Over the past thirty five years, Carl has planted dozens of trees; helped in the translocation of several birds and has overseen the growth of the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi. Having occupied the role of Chairperson from 2002 – 2004, he is currently undertaking his second stint as a Chairperson and is looking to spearhead a number of key projects. As well as overseeing the restoration of one of the most complete Lighthouse Stations in New Zealand, Carl is looking to broaden the scope of the education programme, enhance the training for volunteer guides and develop a research pipeline that contributes to the Supporters’ conservation goals.

Debbie Marshall | Operations Manager

Debbie Marshall has recently been appointed as
the Operations Manager for the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi.
She is married, a mum to three children and Nana to seven
grandchildren. Debbie has a background in Education and over 42 years experience in primary, secondary, early childhood sectors,as well as special education. For the past twenty years she hasworked as a primary school principal. After Debbie resigned, she was determined to volunteer for not for profit organisations. She loves the sea and has spent some time on the Waitemata Harbour. Debbie heard about the
volunteer opportunities at Tiri, signed up as soon as she could
and started her journey to be a guide. She was impressed with all the interesting people she met, buddying with different guides was a fantastic experience. Debbie continues to be amazed by the depth and breadth of the work the supporters have put in over the years, and looks forward to meeting them all.

You can help support us by becoming a SoTM member, and if you choose, volunteering for us.