About Otorohanga Kiwi House - Pikitia Postcards

The Ōtorohanga Kiwi House Story


Kiwi conservation since 1971…..

The Ōtorohanga Kiwi House vision:

  • A sanctuary for New Zealand's unique native birds and reptiles, many rarely seen in the wild

  • A tourist attraction with educational opportunities for visitors

  • A breeding centre undertaking scientific research, sharing knowledge and reintroducing species to the wild.


From dreams to reality….

”During the summer of 1969/70 in Ōtorohanga a chemist, a bricklayer and a locum doctor found that they shared a dream. It took … hard work and determination, particularly by Barry Rowe and Bob Horsfall, with the support and encouragement of a number of other people to [realise] that dream [which was] centred on the rescue of NZ's unique flora and fauna from annihilation.


… To young `Greenie" eyes the ugly process of logging in the area was a spur to action. Autumn skies filled with smoke from indiscriminate clear felling of virgin forests gave further impetus to the process. Flocks of bewildered refugee kaka circling above a bush camp added a sense of urgency.


A veritable Noah's Ark was needed to save much of our native fauna from the flood of destructive forces they were facing.


….What better flag to fly than the holding, breeding and display of our national icon the flightless kiwi?


Led by Barry's fertile mind, discussions and enquiries took place about the construction of a giant walk-through geodetic dome aviary and a nocturnal house. The only other nocturnal house in the world at the time was in the San Diego Zoo. Apart from financial constraints another potential impediment was --yes, more bureaucracy!


The Wild Life Department required that an Internal Affairs permit be obtained before kiwis could be held. Despite this, the building was started with donations of money and enthusiastic voluntary labour. Before it's completion rivals appeared. The NZ Insurance Company donated funds for a nocturnal house at the Auckland Zoo and a Government minister took copies of Ōtorohanga plans to Rotorua. 


Meanwhile a stray kiwi had joined the Rowe household and temporary permission granted to care for it. A great deal was learned about kiwi dietary and other ratite requirements. Fortune smiled and several months later this lonely bird was joined by two more. On completion, the nocturnal house was furnished with a good supply of leaf mould, NZ native plants and an enticing nesting tunnel.


Meanwhile the kiwis were meticulously cared for by Barry and Bob and veterinary surgeon Ian Wright until at last---Great relief! The long withheld permit arrived. Noah's Ark was legally loaded and launched [and New Zealand's first Kiwi House opened on July 17, 1971].
(Dr. Ripley Jones – M.D.)

Atu the Kiwi - Otorohanga Kiwi House
Kea - Otorohanga Kiwi House
Tuatara - Otorohanga Kiwi House

The Visionaries & Founders

(A pharmacist, a brick layer, a doctor and their “Kiwi Club” friends).


The Pharmacist: Barry Rowe

Barry Rowe, The Pharmacist - Otorohanga Kiwi House Founder

Co-Founder and local pharmacist, Barry Rowe, worked as a volunteer for 13 years to develop the Ōtorohanga Kiwi House & Native Bird Park. 


("No" and "can't" were words that did not exist in his vocabulary). He was a true pioneer in kiwi (bird) research.


In 1984 he was offered the position of Project Manager of Australia's Northern Territory Fauna Park at Berry Creek where he stayed for six years.


On returning to New Zealand he accepted a job on Maud Island monitoring Kakapo for the Department of Conservation. Then it was back to Australia to Alice Springs to develop the Desert Wildlife Park. He returned to his Whangarei pharmacy in 1996.


In 1990 he was awarded the Queen's Service Medal which he accepted "...on behalf of all those who supported me in those early difficult days. What you have achieved has been a truly magnificent community effort."

The Brick Layer: Bob Horsfall

Bob Horsfall, The Brick Layer - Otorohanga Kiwi House Founder

Co-Founder and professional bricklayer, Bob Horsfall, immigrated to New Zealand in 1960 from Malvern, Worcestershire, England after completing his compulsory military training and service in Malaysia. 


He was introduced to the New Zealand native 'bush' not long after his arrival.


His appreciation of our native forests was evident in his concern about the indiscriminate logging of the time – conservation issues and native forest restoration became his passion.


Bob served as a member of the Ōtorohanga Community Board from 1980–1986 and again in 1989 until his death in 1998. He was always dedicated to his conservation and preservation principles.


Ōtorohanga Kiwi House & Native Bird Park – Time Line


New Zealand's first Kiwi House open to the public on July 17, 1971 - Otorohanga Kiwi House
First Kiwi Chick hatched at Otorohanga Kiwi House 1975 - Otorohanga Kiwi House
Barry Rowe with a kiwi chick hatched from his specially designed incubators - Otorohanga Kiwi House
Nocturnal House, Barry Rowe aviary Tuatara + kiwi enclosures - Otorohanga Kiwi House
Large Walkthrough Aviary officially opened May 14, 1986 and named the 'Barry Rowe Aviary - Otorohanga Kiwi House


  • Initial concept for a Nocturnal House to display live Kiwi


  • New Zealand's first Kiwi House open to the public on July 17, 1971

  • First Kiwi egg is laid


  • Pond areas developed, waterfowl introduced, first male Kiwi arrives, plus an extra breeding pair


  • A second nocturnal enclosure is built


  • First 2 Kiwi chicks hatched in January, 1975

  • Construction work on the Australasia's largest Walk-through Aviary begins in August

  • First Kiwi Chick hatched at Ōtorohanga Kiwi House 1975


  • Great Spotted Kiwi on display for the first time in New Zealand

  • In August, Dr William Calder III arrived from USA to study Kiwi


  • First artificially incubated Kiwi egg weighing 326 grams hatched on 10 January, 1977 with the hatching televised in 48 countries


  • Aviary construction completed

  • 50th Kiwi egg laid

  • 2 Kiwi donated to Frankfurt Zoo


  • Curator from Rotterdam Zoo arrives to collect 2 female Kiwi

  • NZ Falcon hatched


  • First mainland colony of captive Tuatara established


  • 3 Kiwi sent to Brookfield Zoo, Chicago

  • 3 Kiwi chicks sent to Osaka Zoo, Japan

  • 100th Kiwi egg laid


  • New Kea Aviary completed

  • Sonar scan of Tuatara (one was carrying up to 17 eggs)

  • First baby Tuatara found in December


  • Kaka Aviary completed January, 1985

  • Artificially incubated Tuatara eggs hatch

  • Harrier display aviary completed


  • Large Walkthrough Aviary officially opened May 14, 1986 and named the 'Barry Rowe Aviary'


  • "Birds of Prey' complex opened to the public

  • First Great Spotted Kiwi hatches from incubator


  • Orange-fronted Parakeets arrive

  • Cape Barren Geese arrive

  • North Island Brown Kiwi transferred to Osaka Zoo, Japan

  • First Little Spotted Kiwi chick hatches naturally in enclosure with parent birds


  • Second Little Spotted Kiwi hatches successfully


  • Park celebrates its 21st birthday


  • Pair of Little Spotted Kiwi arrives from Kapiti Island

  • Third Little Spotted Kiwi hatches successfully


  • Kiwi release programme established at the Mapara Reserve using captive-reared birds


  • Marlborough Green Geckos arrive at Otorohanga


  • Kiwi Watch night viewing starts in November, 1999


  • Ōtorohanga Kiwi House celebrates its 30th anniversary on 14 July, 2001

  • For the first time, two Northern Brown Kiwi

  • released into a private reserve near Cambridge

  • Native fresh water fish exhibit is established at the park


  • A pair of New Zealand robins released in the Barry Rowe Aviary

  • New waterfowl aviary constructed


  • First successful hatching of a Variable Oystercatcher in captivity

  • New Whio (Blue Duck) aviary constructed


  • New aviaries built for Antipodes Island Parakeets and Campbell Island Teal


  • Two Ōtorohanga-bred juvenile Kiwi returned to Taranaki for release into the Tarata Marae reserve


  • Falcon Aviary officially opened by Prime Minister, John Key, on 12 February, 2009


  • July, 2011 – Ōtorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park celebrated its 40th birthday


  • March, 2012 - The "Tuatara Room", a brand new multi-purpose classroom & function centre erected


  • Bob's Aviary (in memory of founder, Bob Horsfall) opened to house Yellow-crowned Kakariki


  • New Ruru Aviary opened for the native owls (Morepork or Ruru)


  • A second, state-of-the-art Kiwi Nocturnal House built, using the latest research in housing & displaying kiwi


  • Work commenced on a large 3 year redevelopment project to build a new modern purpose built facility for conserving NZ natives with a focus on showcasing the native species of the North King Country

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Kiwi - Otorohanga Kiwi House - Kiwi Conservation Since 1971

Otorohanga Kiwi House & Native Bird Park
20 Alex Telfer Drive, Otorohanga 3900
New Zealand

38°10’45.4”S  175°12’48.3”E

PHONE: +64 7 873 7391




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