Who we are

The Southern Lakes Sanctuary Trust that oversees this project is a consortium of six local groups that collectively represent 84 community groups, landowners, and businesses, who in turn have been working for many years to protect and restore the declining biodiversity of the Southern Lakes region. The consortium relies on the mahi of hundreds of committed and dedicated volunteers, throughout the district. Their tireless work, which has been quietly ploughing on for many years, is the foundation upon which the Southern Lakes Sanctuary is built. 

Consortium members

Forest & Bird, Central Otago Lakes Branch

The Central Otago-Lakes Branch of Forest and Bird established trapping lines in the Makarora valley in the late 1990s, to protect a small Mohua population. Since then, the trapping programme has expanded greatly, but remains a volunteer operation.  This work is undertaken under the Makarora Predator Control Operational Plan, a partnership between the Department of Conservation and Forest and Bird, developed in 2017 to protect and restore indigenous plants and fauna under threat in the Makarora valley.  The purpose, objectives, and milestones are still focussed on Mohua, with secondary goals of protecting other bush birds and remnant areas of mixed podocarp forest.

Matukituki Catchment Animal Pest Control Project

The Matukituki Catchment Animal Pest Control Project is a coalition of four community groups, nine landowners, and four local tourism businesses.  These groups run trap lines along or adjacent to almost the entire length of the Matukituki River.  This trapping encompasses a diverse range of habitats ranging from alpine snow tussock and beech forest in the West and East Matukituki, to braided river habitat adjacent to pastoral grassland in the lower reaches. 

Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust

Since 2013, the Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust has taken up the challenge to protect a host of species in the Routeburn and Dart Valleys. In partnership with the Department of Conservation, tourism operators, the local community and generous sponsors, the trust runs multiple trap-lines near Glenorchy – from the valley floor to the alpine zone. Projects include protecting Rock Wren in the Harris Saddle and Hollyford Valley, trapping both sides of Lake Wakatipu to stop the invasion of hedgehogs and trapping in and around the Dart and Rees braided rivers to protect native river bird species.

SOHO Properties Ltd

Motatapu Station is one of four high country working sheep stations located west of Wānaka owned by Soho Property Ltd. The four properties are largely protected by way of QEII covenants established in 2015 which, combined with the Soho, Glencoe, and Coronet Peak Stations, comprises a 53,000 hectare area where natural values are protected in perpetuity.  The Covenants are known collectively as the Mahu Whenua Open Space Covenants. It is hoped that the long-term effect of the covenants will create an open country “national park” on land that historically would have been farmed (the land is crown owned pastoral lease). The Mahu Whenua programme is supported by a long-term vision for restored ecosystems and the recovery of biodiversity.  Restoration of habitat paired with predator control provides a comprehensive approach to the Station’s conservation programme. A predator control programme in the Motatapu and tributary valleys has been undertaken since October 2009.

Wānaka Backyard Trapping

Wānaka Backyard Trapping was formed by volunteers in early 2018 with the mission of protecting populations of local indigenous wildlife, through predator trapping and raising community awareness of the reasons why. Seven volunteer groups maintain traplines on public land from Wānaka to Hawea to Luggate around the shores of our lakes, rivers and lagoons. Our mission involves running education initiatives, workshops and events, to promote and support the local communities of the urban and peri-urban Upper Clutha basin to trap in their own backyards.

Whakatipu Wildlife Trust

The Whakatipu Wildlife Trust (WWT) was formed in 2017 at the request of both the Department of Conservation and the Queenstown Lakes District Council to serve as an umbrella organisation to connect, grow, and support the region’s predator-free efforts. The trust coordinates the efforts of over 40 trapping groups who are engaged in activities to help make the Queenstown Lakes District predator-free. It is our vision to encourage growth, to support the efforts of new groups and to help to educate the wider community on how we can all play a part in helping our native wildlife to flourish. The WWT serves as both a unified entity for the community trapping groups and also participates in larger wide-scale work such as the Southern Lakes Sanctuary.

Our Trustees

The Trustees of the Southern Lakes Sanctuary bring a wealth of experience to their strategic and governance roles. They are all passionate advocates for a sanctuary within this area of spectacular mountains, lakes and rivers, protecting thriving ecosystems and abundant wildlife that are enjoyed by people who treasure this whenua puiaki.


Greg Lind, Co-Chair

Greg Lind recently retired from DOC after 32 years in a number of roles, the most recent being operations manager for Te Anau District, managing Fiordland National Park. He brings extensive experience in leading large-scale predator control programmes such as Battle for our Birds. In addition to this Greg has had much involvement with community groups and commercial businesses engaging in conservation, including on Rakiura/Stewart Island and in the Whakatipu basin. Greg has recently become a trustee of the Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust, is an conservation advisor to the National Parks and Conservation Foundation, and is active on conservation projects around his home town of Cromwell.

Leslie Van Gelder, Co-Chair

Leslie Van Gelder holds a Ph.D. in Place Studies and Experiential Education and is a Professor of Education with specialisation in global and indigenous education at Walden University. She has worked in the conservation sector since 2006 developing an international global leadership network which linked together conservation and heritage professionals from 55 countries. Her work as an archaeologist answering questions about human responses to climate change has allowed her to bring together and manage diverse teams, government agencies, and traditional landowners towards common goals. In the Queenstown Lakes District she recently served on the mayor’s Vision 2050 taskforce and locally chairs the Glenorchy Heritage and Museum Group. Leslie has also served as a committee member of the Central Otago Lakes Branch of Forest and Bird and currently co-directs the Glenorchy Dark Skies Sanctuary project.

Steve Batstone, Co-Chair

Steve brings a strong governance and systems based skill set to the Southern Lakes Sanctuary.  With a range of experience across corporate, council and consultancy organisations, he brings a wealth of talent to the Trust Board.  He is heavily involved in the future of energy and works as an advisor in guiding markets and organisations towards efficient decarbonisation.  Steve is also a Trustee of Mana Tahuna, a social and conservation enterprise as well as co-founder of executive education and documentary company Whiteboard Energy.  His passion is in ensuring community groups are working effectively and practically to achieve outcomes that would not otherwise occur.


Jo Booker, Soho Property Ltd

Jo has grown up in the mountains, and has witnessed the transformation of the four properties which make up the Mahu Whenua Covenants from traditionally farmed sheep stations to high country properties being restored to their natural condition.  Jo has a passion for conservation and when she’s not working can often be found in the hills beyond Arrowtown, removing wilding pines or clearing tracks. She is part of the management team of Soho Property Ltd. 

Geoff Hughes, Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust

Geoff Hughes was formerly a hospital doctor, taking early retirement four years ago. He has considerable experience in organisational management and governance in the health sector. At the time of retirement Geoff was an executive clinical director with budget responsibilities for $200 million and 1000 staff across two hospitals in Australia, having been a clinical director in NZ before that. On retirement Geoff changed direction and focussed on making a contribution to conservation and was appointed as a part time executive officer to the Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust in 2016.

Paul Hellebrekers, Matukituki Catchment Animal Pest Control Project

Paul Hellebrekers retired from DOC in 2013, after 31 years of service; his last role was Area Manager at Wānaka. Most of Paul’s time with DOC was spent working within the Upper Clutha region with a particular focus on Mt Aspiring National Park. Since then, Paul has been involved in a number of Wānaka conservation projects. For the last eight years, Paul has been a Negotiator for the Nature Heritage Fund . He is presently the Operations Manager for the Matukituki Charitable Trust.

Daniel Sweeney, Whakatipu Wildlife Trust

Daniel arrived in Queenstown in 2010 from Scotland and has since settled here with a new family. Working as a graphic designer for various clients within the sustainability and environment space has drawn him closer to New Zealand’s native wildlife. Daniel has been a member of the Whakatipu Wildlife Trust and assisting local trapping groups for several years.

Mo Turnbull, Central Otago Lakes Branch of NZ Forest & Bird Protection Society 

Mo grew up on a high country Otago farm, spending holidays at Makarora where he first developed a love for the outdoors. That led him to a 40 year career as a field geologist for GNS Science, which took him all over the southern half of the South Island, the Subantarctic and Antartica, specialising in geological mapping of remote places.

Since 1993 Mo has been involved in numerous conservation projects, starting with a covenant over a forest remnant on the Otago Peninsula, where he was a Trustee on the Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group for several years.  Since moving to Lake Hāwea in 2013 he’s been volunteering at Te Kakano and the Matukituki, and deeply involved with predator trapping at Makarora as a member of the Central Otago Lakes Branch of Forest & Bird.

Kris Vollebregt, Wānaka Backyard Trapping

Kris Vollebregt worked as an exploration geologist in Australia and Indonesia for 8 years, before settling in NZ to raise a family. She “retired” from geology and became heavily involved in working and volunteering on conservation projects.  She currently resides in Wānaka, working as Nursery Manager at the Te Kakano Aotearoa Trust community native plant nursery. One of her conservation efforts was establishing the Wānaka Backyard Trapping group in 2018.

Our Staff

Paul Kavannagh
Paul Kavanagh, Project Director

Paul is responsible for the overall project management and leadership. He is also the point of contact for the Southern Lakes Sanctuary trustees and other stakeholders. 

Katrina Black
Katrina Black, Planner Specialist  

In her Queenstown-based role, Katrina provides planning advice for the overall project including trapping, monitoring, allocation of resources, engagement and long term planning.  

Phil Green
Philip Green, Technical and Field Advisor 

Phil advises our staff and numerous trapping groups in the Whakatipu area on trap types, trapping layouts, baits and lures, use of the database trap.nz and managing trap builds.

Bonnie Wilkins
Bonnie Wilkins, Whakatipu Hub Coordinator 

Bonnie is based in Queenstown and is responsible for coordinating with the Whakatipu community, and supporting the efforts of the Whakatipu Wildlife Trust. Her role also includes assisting with biodiversity and pest monitoring, and carrying out trap auditing/servicing.

Jo Tilson
Jo Tilson, Biodiversity Coordinator 

Jo has the practical experience needed to plan and implement biodiversity monitoring work across the region, with a focus on training others to monitor protected species and animal pests.

Di Liddell
Di Liddell, Makarora Hub Coordinator 

Di’s role is to support the Central Otago Lakes Branch of Forest & Bird by coordinating their extensive trapping efforts in the Makarora area. She also coordinates work for the Wānaka-based field staff.

Paul Millis
Paul Millis, Wānaka Field Crew  

Paul is responsible for undertaking the trap audit, maintenance on existing trap lines, installing new traps, helping with biodiversity monitoring and carrying out general field work as required.

Tom Reeves
Tom Reeves, Wānaka Field Crew 

Tom is responsible for undertaking the trap audit, maintenance on existing trap lines, installing new traps, helping with biodiversity monitoring and carrying out general field work as required.

Greg Whall
Greg Whall, Biodiversity Logistics Coordinator 

In this Queenstown-based role, Greg helps to coordinate field work and trap-building projects, accounts for supplies and assists in the field with predator control and monitoring. 

Petrina Duncan
Petrina Duncan, Communications and Upper Clutha Community Coordinator 

Petrina supports Wānaka Backyard Trapping with their community engagement, communications and data management. She also promotes the achievements of Southern Lakes Sanctuary and its hub groups via various media channels.