The History of Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
This unique South Island attraction was established in 1974 by the Willis family, and is still owned and operated by the same family today. Situated on 18 hectares of river gravel, it has taken many years of planting and care to create the lush surroundings Willowbank has today.
Willowbank is a special place combining native New Zealand wildlife, rare breeds, nature and culture – all within the boundaries of Christchurch city.
The staff and owners of Willowbank work alongside the New Zealand Conservation trust, particularly with the kiwi breeding program “Operation Nest Egg”. Willowbank is privately owned and receives no government funding. We are extremely grateful for donations. Willowbank has doubled the population of Okarito kiwis thanks to the contribution that visitors to the park have made to the conservation of the kiwi through your reserve entrance ticket.
There are approximately 50 different types of animal (up to 500 individual animals) found in enclosures and wandering free.
N.Z. Conservation Trust (NZCT) at Willowbank
The NZCT was set up for the conservation of wildlife and the environment and also to promote education of this to the public. The Trust has been actively involved in the breeding of North Island Brown Kiwi at the Park with the most success in N.Z.
The Trust is now an active part of Operation Nest Egg (O.N.E) working with Okarito and Haast. It is possible to become a member of the Trust and to help in the work done by this active group.
The Wildlife Hospital, Education and Research Centre at Willowbank is involved in the conservation and preservation of New Zealand wildlife. Its main function is a veterinary hospital, caring for orphaned, injured or ill wildlife, through the process of treatment, recovery and release to the wild or back to their captive facility.
The facility and its experienced staff are available to Department of Conservation staff, veterinarians, veterinary nurses, students of tertiary learning institutions and conservation groups, to give unique hands-on experience and training with wildlife not otherwise available in the South Island.
The Willowbank Meeting House
Our meeting house was designed and blessed under strict Maori guidance. This meeting house has great cultural significance, based on the Maori concept that it represents a man with the main ridge beam representing the spine of the man with the rafters representing the ribs. The central supporting pole represents the heart of the structure/man.
In the mid 80s the structure was consumed by fire (note the blackened main poles and beams), destroying the original thatched roof and walls which have since been replaced by the new materials you see today.
Ko Tane (the garden of Tane) provides a unique glimpse into the way of life of the South Island's Ngai Tahu Maori people before the arrival of Europeans.
Ko Tane Show Times:daily at 5.30pm (bookings essential)
Ko Tane Check in Times: 5.15pm
Free transport is available from selected locations
Our Mission Statement
By sharing the Willowbank experience, our visitors will be inspired to make a positive contribution towards a better environment in New Zealand & beyond
- a genuine New Zealand Experience
- efficient use of energy, water resources & commitment to waste reduction
- an intimate and interactive journey that tell the story of an evolving New Zealand and its heritage, culture & wildlife
- education, promotion and conservation of rare and endangered species
- an authentic and unforgettable cultural experience encompassing the spirit of the Maori people
- New Zealand influenced cuisine and service (that will exceed expectations)
- quality souvenirs, clothing and giftware to rekindle the New Zealand experience
How to Volunteer
Willowbank receives no government funding towards the cost of operating the reserve, so we are very appreciative of sponsorship and donations from the community to help with the work we do to help save New Zealand's endangered species.
If you would like to help support our work, please contact us using the email enquiry form, or by calling the reserve office on 03 3596226.
Sponsor an Animal