Ōtewao Biodiversity Project

Our Vision: To enhance the mana of the landscape through protection and enhancement of biodiversity, while also building life opportunities for local people through kaitiakitanga and cultural reconnection within Murihiku



Ōtewao/Forest Hill (600 ha) is a major conservation asset in Murihiku and is widely used for recreation by people in the Winton District, Invercargill and wider Murihiku/Southland. The conservation and cultural values of the Reserve are widely appreciated. Forest Hill contains the most diverse flora of any forest remnant on the Southland Plains and the limestone caves at Forest Hill have yielded skeletons from the past Kiwi, Moa, Kakapo, Saddleback, various seabirds, and many other native species. Although several of these species have gone forever their remains provide a guide to the outstanding biodiversity that the wildlife of the area held prior to humans arriving.

Although this project is being overseen and supported by the Hokonui Rūnanga, the progress being made in the area is largely due to the efforts of the Forest Hill Foundation Trust and project managers, Leith Contracting. Click here to find out more about the Forest Hill Trust.


Activities and Objectives

As shown below by the end of September 2022, the Taiao Team and partners had placed 829 Traps.

Total Pests Caught by the end of September 2022:


Possums Caught by the end of September 2022:


Mustelids Caught by the end of September 2022


Other Pests Caught by the end of September 2022:


The main outcomes for this initial 3-year period are:

  • Ground-based possum and mustelid control
  • Establishing an effective trapping network within these areas to prevent reinvasion of pests into native forestry
  • Monitor biodiversity
  • Improve habitat (with a potential tree planting plan)
  • Investigate and plan the return of absent Taonga

Te ao Māori and the enhancement of Mātauranga Māori are at the core of this project, with the aim of reconnecting whenua to whānau.

This initial stage will provide a starting point for a larger project. It will run adjacent to the Traineeship Project (another Hokonui Rūnanga project), which will identify and upskill a base of employees to meet the specific needs of Ngāi Tahu and Southland.



Do You Want to be apart of this project?


This project will work with community groups conducting predator control in the reserve. These community groups could benefit from additional volunteers, if you are interested, please contact us for more information. Just let us know your area of interest (or willingness to learn!).

Volunteer activities could include anything from trap checking and trap box building, to managing data, tree planting, fundraising, and more.

If you own a business or are involved in a club that would like to donate funds or time to the cause, we would love to hear from you as well!

Project Contact:

(Operations Coordinator)

A Partnership Approach to Environmental Restoration.

This work is made possible with the generous support of  the Te Papa Atawhai Jobs for Nature Initiative and the hardworking team at the Forest Hill Foundation Trust.


News & Updates

Robin Restoration Volunteer Programme

Robin Restoration Donations Programme