Ecology Festival 2023

Aotea’s Ecology Festival

(formerly known as the Pestival)

Was held on 

November 11th, 2023 at the Claris Conference Centre 

 Aotea Great Barrier Island from 10am

Join us for a day with Aotea Community Groups & inspiring Speakers as we learn about conservation, connection with land, sea and sky – both here and around Aotearoa!
There will also be spot prizes up for grabs on the day, such as Barrier Air flights. 
Our local Dark Sky tour guides, Good Heavens, are offering a discounted rate
 for you to join them on the weekend 
**Good Heavens Promo discount for the Eco festival, it’s ECOFEST23. This code can be used for direct bookings on our website, and is valid to book from tomorrow – 12 November, for tours between 6-19 November. It’s worth $20 per person.
Content for Good Heavens found here About page

Full Programme

10AM- 12.30PM: Conservation Group Stalls

  • Okiwi Community Group, Aotea Great Barrier Environmental Trust, Oruawharo Medlands Ecovision, Aotea Trap Library, Tu Mai Taonga, Glenfern Sactuary, Auckland University, DOC, DGBI, Cecilia Sudden Bay Project, Manta Watch NZ, Okupu Community Trappers and many more.
  • Come visit and chat. See what our amazing community groups have been up to this year.

    1PM- 5PM: Ecology Festival Speakers

    • Hiku Davis | Treading lightly and working with a sense of the past as TMT’s wahi tapu advisor
    • Cam Speedy | Walks us through the drivers of predator management in Aotearoa
    • Lydia Green | Oceanic Manta Rays in Aotearoa waters, 2023 season update
    • Sam the Trap Man | Sharing his plant knowledge of how we can use them in many different ways
    • Glen Edney | Community-based approach to monitoring and managing local marine ecosystems

    Panel Discussion

Guest Speakers

Hiku Davis

Treading lightly and working with a sense of the past as TMT’s wahi tapu advisor

Hiku is mana whenua from the island and grew up and still lives on Aotea with his whānau on their whenua in Motairehe.


Hiku has been involved in his hapū history on the island from an early age, dealing with historical site’s and archeological sites, with the guidance of his kaumatua and kuia. Hiku’s whakapapa lines reach back to Hongi Hika, which enabled some of his ancestors to remain on Aotea while others took refuge among relatives on the Coromandel with the arrival of Ngāpuhi muskets.

Hiku has always had a curiosity with the past, and this knowledge is now sought after when koiwi, skeletal remains, or artefacts are found around the motu and they need to be handled with appropriate tikanga.


His job as wahi tapu advisor is to work alongside the field crew in the bush. He has worked in the past for the Department of Conservation, the council and road contracting crews, but says Tū Mai Toanga is going about things in a careful way; making sure the voices of mana whenua are listened to and enabling them to shape the way that life can be returned to the forest.


Part of this excerpt is taken from Tū Mai Toanga’s article ‘Hiku Davis: Working with a sense of the past’ written by Tim Higham

Cam Speedy

Walks us through the drivers of predator management in Aotearoa

Campbell Speedy is a renowned trapper in Aotearoa.

His talk will be very much about observing understanding a place/the intuitive observation of a place, paying attention to the small things, the details when we are in a place, matauranga and maramataka. And a bit of trapping insight; he is all about how to “trap smart”.

Watch his talk at Predator Free 2050 ‘Fine Tuning Your Predator Control’ here.


He’s a hunter, a gather and conservationist who is incorporating maramataka into how he engages with the environment. He’s committed to ensuring future generations can enjoy the rich biodiversity of New Zealand. 


Working through Massey University, NZ Forest Service, Department of Conservation, and the private and corporate sectors, Cam has gained valuable experience and a deep understanding of the complexities of New Zealand’s unique ecosystems.


Cam’s career has been spent working with a wide range of species including kiwi, whio, Tuna (eels) and seabirds, as well as introduced mammals such as deer, goats and possums. Having a particular interest in Sika deer, Cam has been heavily involved in monitoring and researching sika populations and studying their herd dynamics and habitat impacts.

Lydia Green

Oceanic Manta Rays in Aotearoa waters + 2023 season update

Lydia is an experienced marine ecologist and has worked with a range of marine species, including sharks, marine mammals and seabirds.


Lydia has focussed on manta rays since 2013, researching manta ray populations in Fiji, Mexico, the Maldives and New Zealand. Lydia founded the Manta Watch New Zealand Charitable Trust and has been Project Manager since 2017. She has extensive knowledge of oceanic manta rays in NZ waters and manages the project’s national sightings and photo identification databases. Lydia is an experienced marine educator and is Manta Watch NZ’s primary contact for community engagement and outreach programs.


Lydia has always felt a deep connection to the ocean and a key focus for her is to inspire and connect others.


“The ocean has always provided structure to my life, she keeps me grounded and driven. I love how anything is possible out on the ocean; you just never know what you are going to come across out there. Our oceans are the greatest of teachers, they hold so much knowledge and have many lessons to share if we take the time to listen.”


Her talk will include the latest project updates as well as how the general public / citizen scientist can submit sights to the project this upcoming manta season.


Follow and watch Manta Watch NZ project updates on their YouTube channel here 

Sam the Trap man

Our relationship with plants, their uses and how they can engage us in a conservation conversation

“Sam the Trap Man” – Hamiora Gibson is Tairāwhiti/East Coast catchments coordinator with the independent NGO, NZ Landcare Trust, and writes for the NZ Outdoor Magazine, and also runs a YouTube channel and other social media streams. Find his YouTube channel Sam the Trap Man here. 


Having cut his teeth as a trapper in the depths of Te Urewera at the age of 12 and after spending much of his 20’s in Fiordland, Sam came back home to Gisborne where he founded the Eastern Whio Link a 30,000ha “hunter led” conservation project that is quickly bringing Whio back from the brink of localised collapse.


His model for conservation is all around people. The more people understand about the plants and animals that surround them, the more they want to look after them. People flock from all over New Zealand to be part of the Eastern Whio Link project where trapping predators is just one part of a wider conservation model that focuses on ecosystem literacy through mahinga kai.


On a typical weekend trapping trip volunteers will be taking part in hunting, fishing, trapping and learning what edible plants there are in the bush and how we can best look after them.


In his talk Sam will be speaking to “Our relationship with plants and how they engage us in a conservation conversation”. His talk will be jam packed with edible plant info and great foraging tips as well as ideas on the role many plants play in the conservation space.

glen edney

Community-based approach to monitoring and managing local marine ecosystems

Glenn Edney is a marine biologist working with Motairehe Marae on the Ahu Moana Pilot Project. He will be speaking about his data collection methods, which tie very much into matauranga maori, observation of place, and the community observation/citizen scientists. He will be able to give us a good insight into his learnings of Caulerpa, also. Glenn has created great relationships with mana whenua on the island. Listen to his piece ‘Spirit of the Ocean’ on the Waste Not, Want Not Podcast here.


Glenn is an Ocean ecologist, underwater naturalist, professional diver, sailor, teacher and author. He has been exploring the Ocean and interacting with Ocean life for more than 40 years. His ongoing research is focused on understanding the Ocean as a living system and the role she plays as the primary life support system for our planet.


Glen has a Masters degree in Holistic Science from Schumacher College and Plymouth University in the UK and is currently completing PhD research within the Māori Studies Dept at the University of Auckland. Glen sees traditional and local Ocean knowledge and modern scientific ecological understanding as complimentary knowledge systems.


Bringing these knowledge systems together within a community-based approach to monitoring and managing local marine ecosystems is at the heart of his PhD research and fits perfectly with Ahu Moana vision, which is a central component of the Revitalise the Gulf Strategy.


In this presentation Glenn will share stories, insights and results from the Ahu Moana Pilot project here on Aotea and beyond.

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