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Our place on
Kapiti Island

We’ve been welcoming visitors to the island since 1820. Find out more about our heritage and values.

Nau mai haere mai!

Kapiti has been in our blood for eight generations. Since our arrival here in 1820, our whānau (family) have warmly welcomed visitors to the island and shared this unique experience with them. 

Kapiti Island is one of New Zealand's oldest and most important nature reserves, and a place rich in human history. We take our responsibility as kaitiaki (guardians) very seriously and are passionate about preserving its taonga (natural treasures) for generations to come. 

You can read more about us and the island below. We look forward to sharing these stories and many more on your next visit.

Ngā mihi
Kapiti Island Nature Tours

Our purpose

As a whānau business our purpose is best described by this whakatauaki (proverb) written by Pou Tikanga Tāmihana Kātene:

“He rito tangata e mau, He taura here kia ū”

The first part is a metaphor about the emerging growth of the people. The second is about the strands that bind & hold fast.

We are committed to the revitalisation and growth of our people & to the practices that bind us to the things that matter to us - our culture, our people, our language, our taiao (natural resources).

Kapiti Island nature reserve

An hour’s drive from Wellington and 15 minutes by boat from the coast, Kapiti is set aside for the protection of native plants and birds. Human impact is kept to a minimum, and this ‘predator-free’ environment allows a diversity of birdlife to flourish. 

History of Kapiti Island

People have also lived on the island for over 800 years, and their history survives today through the stories and legends told by their ancestors, and through historical sites and artefacts.

Many tribal groups have left their marks on Kapiti Island during a long and colourful history. For instance, from here the famous chief Te Rauparaha controlled his middle NZ empire between 1830s and 1860s.

Over the last 150 years, Kapiti Island has been home to European interests, including the explorer Captain James Cook, foreign trading ships, and whalers, whose ‘blubber pots’ still remain on the island.

In 1897 New Zealand’s Prime Minister Richard Seddon introduced a bill to Parliament in order to acquire Kapiti Island ‘to conserve the flora and fauna of the Island’.

Of the total 1965 hectares, the local tangata whenua (Maori people of the land) together kept 13 hectares around Waiorua Bay, and this is where the Lodge is today. 

Our kaupapa

We’re a Māori business and apply a kaupapa-based approach to the way we work. Our guiding kaupapa (guiding principles) underpin all of our activity & business decisions. This means we’re about more than just the bottom line.

We take care to enhance the mana of our visitors, ourselves and each other through exceptional care, generosity and hospitality. 

We strive to acknowledge the rangatiratanga (leadership and decision-making) of individuals, whānau, hapu and iwi in our activities. We understand the importance of “walking the talk”, following through on comments and commitments made, manaakitanga, integrity and honesty.

We operate on the principle that we are all part of a larger whole, with a network of ties and kinship to people, places and things. We put a focus on balancing our rights and our obligations.

We’re united in our purpose and direction and everyone has a part to play in achieving our shared vision. 

We’re grounded in a sense of belonging, where we have an important role to play and where we can contribute.

We carry on the legacy passed down to us, including the natural resources that sustain us, preserving and maintaining our business and our island home for future generations. 

Awards & recognition

As a whānau business, we take our role as kaitiaki (guardians) of the land seriously. And we’re passionate about sharing the beauty and taonga (natural treasures) of Kapiti Island with our visitors.  

It means a lot to us when our commitment to our kaupapa (guiding principles) is recognised.

Here are some of the awards we have won

John Barrett,
our co-founder

John is Ngāti Raukawa, Te Ati Awa and Ngāti Toarangatira. His grandmother inherited the farm on Kapiti Island from her father, Wi Parata te Kahakura, and held a kaitiaki role.

In 1999 John and his sister Amo founded Kapiti Island Nature Tours after seeing how much their own friends and whānau enjoyed visiting and exploring the island.

He has dedicated much of his life to building Kapiti island Nature Tours into what it is today. 

Business Kapiti Horowhenua

Judges comments:

John has poured his life’s energy into building an iconic tourism attraction... and today showcases a predator-free nature reserve showcasing bird life and pristine New Zealand bushland and beach. 

This whakatauki is said of a great chief or leader:

"He kotoku rerenga tahi - A white heron's flight is seen but once."

John Barrett, you are a deserving laureate to the BKH hall of fame.


Tourism Industry Champion Award

Judges comments:

John is an outstanding individual who has dedicated his career to championing eco-tourism.  

His achievements evidence just how passionate and committed he is to continuously bring awareness to Kapiti Island, its habitat and the local community. 

An amazing lifetime contribution.


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