Imagine a coastal landscape where wetlands and forests are regenerating, treasured species like kiwi, pāteke, bellbird, whitehead and robin thrive, sheep and cattle graze and everyone is welcome.

Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary is a unique blend of conservation, recreation and sustainable farming within Tāwharanui Regional Park. The open sanctuary includes mature and regenerating native bush, wonderful beaches, spectacular coastal cliffs, wetlands, heritage sites, a marine reserve and extensive areas of rich pasture.

The Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary Society (TOSSI) was formed in 2002 to help make the open sanctuary project a reality. TOSSI works in partnership with the Auckland Council and is involved in volunteer programs, fundraising, education and advocacy. We are a community-based organisation with charitable status.

In 2004 we helped fund a 2.5 km predator-proof fence built across Tāwharanui peninsula to create a refuge for native animals free from pests such as rats, stoats and possums. With TOSSI’s help, fourteen species have returned to breed or been re-introduced to the sanctuary including takahē, kiwi, pāteke, kākāriki, bellbirds, robins, kākā, whiteheads, tīeke (saddleback) and seabirds.

TOSSI projects include forest and wetland restoration, re-introduction of threatened species, monitoring animals and plants, pest control, our nursery, and the development of walking tracks.

From 1995 the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) explored the idea of developing an intensively managed conservation area – a ‘mainland island’ – within a regional park. The concept received support from within the ARC and from the community and this lead to the initiation of the Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary (TOS) in 2000.

Tāwharanui was selected because of its size, its location at the end of a peninsula, range of habitats and its proximity to significant conservation areas such as Hauturu (Little Barrier Island).

Community support for the project was formalised through the inaugural meeting in 2002 of the Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary chaired by ARC Councillor Bill Burrill. Soon after, TOSSI was formed with a constitution and a Memorandum Agreement signed with the ARC.

The major task facing the new TOSSI committee was to raise funds to help build the pest-proof fence. One means of achieving this was through the staging of the first Art in the Woolshed Exhibition in 2003. Further funds were raised by a “Get in Behind” campaign to encourage donations from the public.

In 2004, “The Big Plant” (a major revegetation program) was commenced by the Council and TOSSI; the second Art in the Woolshed Exhibition was held; the pest-proof fence was completed; and the ARC used helicopters to drop bait across the peninsula to target introduced predators.

The following year bellbirds recolonised Tāwharanui from Hauturu.

These first years set the pattern for TOSSI’s future: extensive revegetation programs, the reintroduction of fauna, regular Art in the Woolshed Exhibitions, fundraising for programs on the Park and pest control.

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