In spite of it having been called the most ambitious conservation project in the country, the most surprising thing about the Zealandia (Karori Sanctuary) in the old Karori water reservoir valley in the heart of Wellington is that there seems to be little effort to emulate the project anywhere else in the country. Many districts throughout the country have a bush covered water reservoir catchment which would seem to be ideal to convert to a wildlife sanctuary but for some reason Wellington's example has not been followed.
In 1992 a proposal to establish a secure native wildlife sanctuary in the Karori Reservoir Valley was made by James Lynch, then Chairman of the Wellington branch of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society. It was proposed that the valley be enclosed by a predator fence — deemed necessary because of its proximity to a major population area with all its attendant pests — and developed as a premier conservation site with educational, research, recreational and tourism benefits. The proposal was presented to Wellington conservation and natural science organisations, the Department of Conservation, Wellington Regional Council and the Wellington City Council, who all agreed the proposal was worth investigating. The WRC and WCC then agreed to fund a feasibility study.
The Sanctuary Steering Committee received approval for the formation of the Trust and development of a management plan from the Wellington City Council in December 1994 after public consultations showed 90% of the local community supported the use of the valley as a sanctuary. The Karori Wildlife Sanctuary Trust was officially launched In July 1995.
The rest is history, with the Trust well on the way to achieving their vision of an island in the middle of Wellington, where predators and pests have been eradicated, teeming with birds and wildlife, a place accessible and enjoyed by all; a place of rest and peace where one can once again be in touch with New Zealand's unique natural heritage.