Our Story

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About us

Kia ora. The OPERA is a private eco reserve focused on conservation, rehabilitation, restoration, and education. Formerly called Penguin Place, the operation was founded in 1985 by landowner Howard McGrouther and conservationist Scott Clarke, making it one of the oldest private ecotourism operations in New Zealand.

Having expanded well beyond the original focus on the hoiho (yellow-eyed penguin), The OPERA is now concerned with the conservation of all native species living on the property which we oversee.

From the beginning

When the operation was originally established, the hoiho were struggling with the devastating loss of their natural habitat of coastal forest, with most of it having been cleared for farming. In addition to habitat loss, the hoiho were suffering from increased predation due to introduced mammals that were brought to New Zealand by humans as they settled the islands.

To help the hoiho, a reserve was established encompassing the dunes and coastal areas of the family’s working sheep farm where hoiho were found to be breeding. Habitat restoration and predator control work was immediately started to give the penguins an increased chance of survival.

Later, nesting boxes were added to provide shelter, shade, and privacy that hoiho require for successful breeding. These nesting boxes also minimize the risk of predation, with three solid walls and only one entry, providing protection for penguins while the lengthy process of natural habitat restoration takes place.

From the beginning
Tracks, trenches and hides

Tracks, trenches and hides

A system of walking tracks and a unique set of trenches and hides were established throughout the reserve. Today, guests taking wildlife tours at The OPERA are guided through this special system of more than 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) of trails within our reserve where they can experience incredible ocean and land vistas, as well as an abundance of plants and wildlife.

From our tacks, guests may also be guided through a unique network of nearly 700 meters (0.5 mile) of trenches that open into hides, offering unique viewing when wildlife is present. This special system allows guests to travel within the reserve while reducing the impact of human presence which may interfere with the natural behaviours of penguins and other animals who are visiting, nesting, and living here in the reserve.

From the beginning

When the operation was originally established, the hoiho were struggling with the devastating loss of their natural habitat of coastal forest, with most of it having been cleared for farming. In addition to habitat loss, the hoiho were suffering from increased predation due to introduced mammals that were brought to New Zealand by humans as they settled the islands.

To help the hoiho, a reserve was established encompassing the dunes and coastal areas of the family’s working sheep farm where hoiho were found to be breeding. Habitat restoration and predator control work was immediately started to give the penguins an increased chance of survival.

Later, nesting boxes were added to provide shelter, shade, and privacy that hoiho require for successful breeding. These nesting boxes also minimize the risk of predation, with three solid walls and only one entry, providing protection for penguins while the lengthy process of natural habitat restoration takes place.

From the beginning
Tracks, trenches and hides

Tracks, trenches and hides

A system of walking tracks and a unique set of trenches and hides were established throughout the reserve. Today, guests taking wildlife tours at The OPERA are guided through this special system of more than 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) of trails within our reserve where they can experience incredible ocean and land vistas, as well as an abundance of plants and wildlife.

From our tacks, guests may also be guided through a unique network of nearly 700 meters (0.5 mile) of trenches that open into hides, offering unique viewing when wildlife is present. This special system allows guests to travel within the reserve while reducing the impact of human presence which may interfere with the natural behaviours of penguins and other animals who are visiting, nesting, and living here in the reserve.