North Shore Branch Tuff Crater Restoration Project

North Shore Forest & Bird’s flagship project “The Tuff Crater Restoration Project” surrounds an extinct volcano in Northcote, a popular residential area on Auckland’s North Shore. Adjoining the northern motorway, it’s highly visible as residents travel over the harbour bridge, commuting to and from the city.

Tuff Crater on Choice TV

View a 3 minute video about the Tuff Crater restoration with Branch Chair & Project Leader Richard Hursthouse. 

For photos see below under the years or the galleries on Naturespace

Volunteering at Tuff Crater

This year we will be continuing our program of work days every second Saturday and every Thursday morning. Please contact Anne Denny for more information

Sign up to receive notification of Tuff Crater events

see our Events diary here 


Tuff Crater Updates 


We have continued our weed control program paying a contractor to help with MU 1-5 (from Health Reserve to Northbridge Village area). Council agreed to take on the maintenance of the tank sites and the Millennium Forest. 

We have planted MU4 near Arahia St and after a HUGE effort we put in 1000 plants on what was once a bank covered in Arundo grass.

Photos June 2017 and July 2017. Massive thanks to everyone who helped out especially the great team from Canon in July.


Our major planting area was MU4 which is the area between St Peters St and Bayleys Reserve on the southwest side. Some willows were removed from this area before our planting days. See the photos of our pleasant sunny planting day on 11th June 2016. Thank you to all the volunteers. 

We had another successful Tuff Crater planting day on Saturday 9th July, See the photos here 9th July 2016


2015 saw weed management underway in all eight management unit areas. The latest areas for new weed control are MU4 and MU5 on the southwest and northwest parts of the crater. Our big planting day in 2015 was on May 9 at MU5, just north of St Peters St followed by planting of some smaller areas over the following few months.Rat baiting and possum and stoat trapping continue in full swing. Latest monitoring data suggest rat numbers have plummeted since our volunteer team has been working on the crater, which is excellent news for the native wildlife there. 

See photos of our huge planting day at St Peters St 9 May 2015. 1700 plants were moved from Kaipatiki Project over 8 trailer loads and placed out by 20 people in 2 hours on Friday afternoon in the rain. These plants planted by 80 people in 2 hours followed by a volunteer run BBQ - Thanks everyone who helped make this happen!!

We made big inroads into the two large areas of bamboo north and south of St Peters St as well as continuing to make a hole in the elaeagnus on the cliffs of tanks 1 and 2.


One of our fantastic seats (photo R Hursthouse)

One of our fantastic seats (photo R Hursthouse)

New seats and leaners

The Tuff Crater work to install three benches and two leaners and a new track from Warehouse way to the top of the zig zag track is now finished. It has taken longer than anticipated but all good things take time. This work has been managed by Forest & Bird who are carrying out a major restoration project at Tuff Crater. A big "thankyou” to Owen Taylor for pro bono resource consent work via Rotary; Kate Hursthouse who designed graphics for the benches; Mark Woods for the laser etching; Gordon Wallace of Park Benches PIrongia for manufacturing the benches including inlaying the graphics; Paul Oliver of Envirosafe and his hard worker Rhys who built the track and installed the leaners and benches. We couldn’t have done it without the financial support of North Harbour Rotary, ASB Community Trust, Kaipatiki Local Board and Lion Foundation. You can see images of the work here. The view from the seat at the top of the hill below Canon looking towards town is one of the best in town.

Maintenance work is continuing with contractors drilling large weed trees. Our enthusiastic and intrepid weedbusters are managing to keep weeds under control but weeds are an ongoing challenge. Teams of volunteers meet every Thursday morning and one Saturday each month while contractors continue to maintain weed control in specified areas. We have six volunteers monitoring 55 bait stations. Some of these are owners whose properties border Tuff Crater. It’s encouraging to see increasing numbers of birds. People who haven’t ventured around the crater recently will be amazed at the level of growth that’s taken place It’s difficult to imagine how bare some parts were only 2 years ago. 

We have completed our planting program for the year with 700 plants supplied by council planted at Heath Reserve. Forest & Bird has funded another 1400 plants, grown with love and care by the wonderful volunteers at Kaipatiki Project

For photos of planting at Heath Reserve and South side see 15 June 2014  North side and seat ceremony 12 July 2014

Planting Day at Tuff Crater (P Moll)


2013 saw a hive of activity with ongoing maintenance work each Thursday and good numbers of volunteers for our Saturday working bees each month. During June/July we had 3 major planting days, the first one in early June was organised and funded by Auckland Council then our 2 major branch planting days took place over the next couple of weeks. A big “thankyou” to everyone who turned up to assist, altogether we put in approx 6000 new plants over the 3 days – a great effort! This year we have two contractors working to control pampas, climbing asparagus, privet and other pest plants. We have made a start on McBreen/Exmouth area on the south side. During the previous year excellent progress was achieved on new track construction with a track and staircase going down to the lower main track, plus a zigzag track further along also giving access to the lower level. A new section of track was developed across a previously muddy grassed area and a further 50m of existing track was metalled. We now have approximately 800m of track in addition to the 2 tracks linking the lower and upper levels. This work has been managed by Forest & Bird and funded by grants from Kaipatiki Local Board and the Lion Foundation. An on-site storage container was moved onto the site earlier last year and painted green to harmonise with the surroundings. Thanks to DBCS Containers and Bunnings Warehouse.

Photos of our planting days in 2013 - North Side tanks 7-9 22 June 2013 & 20 July 2013Arahia St  9 June 2013

Golden Spade Award for Tuff Crater 

North Shore committee members presented with the Golden Spade at F&B conference

North Shore committee members presented with the Golden Spade at F&B conference

Forest & Bird awarded its Golden Spade planting award to North Shore branch for the Tuff Crater Reserve Restoration Project. The award was presented to Forest & Bird North Shore branch representatives Richard Hursthouse, Anne Denny and Claire Stevens by Forest & Bird President Barry Wards at the organisation’s annual 2011 conference in Wellington. Richard Hursthouse, the chairman of the branch and one of the leaders of the restoration project says the project is heavily reliant on the support of the community and funders. “With a project like this we are totally reliant on funding, and you have to have the support from a decent group of volunteers, and we have been able to attract good support from local residents".




Our Volunteers

Volunteers being shown how to plant, Tuff Crater June 2012

Volunteers being shown how to plant, Tuff Crater June 2012

A big “thankyou” to the large number of volunteers who contribute to the project in so many ways, without their hard work and enthusiasm the “Tuff Crater Restoration Project” would still be an impossible dream.






The Millennium Forest 

white faced heron

white faced heron

Since 2000, branch volunteers have been working with North Shore City Council to plant the bare land on the edge of the northern motorway, immediately north of the estuary. In 2008, once this area was planted with native plants the branch decided to take on the restoration of the entire Tuff Crater reserve.





Our Vision for Tuff Crater  

“Tuff Crater reserve is a fine example of a carefully restored natural area. The restoration is led by North Shore Forest and Bird, who are involving the wider community. Invasive weeds are reduced to manageable levels, and effective predator control is helping wildlife to thrive. Expert input is helping to raise awareness of the local ecology. An all weather circuit track allows year round walking, vehicle access for weed control and planting. A pedestrian bridge across the estuary enhances the walking experience”

Map of Tuff Crater

This map contains lots of information about what is happening where with the restoration project  Link to Google map

Restoration plan  

The restoration plan divides the reserve into 8 management units (MUs) with each MU is prioritised. Our top priority is maintenance of the Millennium Forest area (MU8). The second priority is the coastal kohekohe forest (MU2)on the southern rim, while the third priority is MU7, the tank sites immediately west of the Millennium Forest. The branch has secured funding for control of weeds in MU2 and 7 including pampas, climbing asparagus, privet and wattle. We are now funding weed control in MU3 on the south side. Volunteers are controlling smaller privet and a huge area of elaeagnus as well as keeping on top of moth plant and other nasties.
Restoration Plan PDF
Site plan existing PDF
Planting plan map PDF
Planting plan species lists PDF


Pest Control at Tuff Crater (January 2011 - June 2016)

Full baiting initiated - 13/08/2013

Walking Track


Tuff Crater walkway signage. Photo: Philip Moll

Tuff Crater walkway signage. Photo: Philip Moll

Tuff Crater walking track

Our branch raised funds and arranged a major upgrade of the track around the crater to allow access for recreation, planting and weed control. We have completed 805 metres of track upgrade, constructed  wooden steps linking the northern slope down to the lower walkway, the 100m zigzag track and a connection out to Warehouse Way between Northbridge and Haydn & Rollett.

We would like to see a connection between the Millennium Forest and Heath Reserve to enable a walking circuit around the entire crater.  We see this as a small part of a North/South walk cycle route we are calling Naturepath. See here for more info. NZTA are developing options for a connection along this route.

There are signboards at 3 main entrances to the walking/cycling track. You’ll find these at the following locations: Below the concrete walkway at the end of Warehouse Way beside the Canon headquarters (off Akoranga Drive, Northcote), bottom end of St Peters St, Northcote (off College Rd), and at Heath Reserve at the end of Exmouth Rd, Northcote.

 Ecological Monitoring

Kingfisher (Photo: Philip Moll)

Kingfisher (Photo: Philip Moll)

The iconic bird of the crater is the kotare (kingfisher), which is seen on every visit. 

We have people monitoring the bird life, lizards, invertebrates and rodents. We also monitor weeds and native regeneration using photo point monitoring. 

Ideally we would like to see monitoring of the estuarine habitat as well including fish and benthic life.


Birds of Tuff Crater PDF
Native plants of Tuff Crater PDF
Invasive/naturalising plants of Tuff Crater PDF


Tuff Crater Insect Survey 

The Auckland Entomological Society had a field trip to Tuff Crater in 2013. See the list of invertebrates found during their visit and the plants they were found upon.

Butterflies at Tuff Crater

We have several native butterflies at Tuff. Copper butterflies feed on the muehlenbeckia on the south side. Blue butterflies are also present feeding on wildflowers among other things. There is scope for encouraging Red Admiral butterflies by planting native nettles. See ecologist Carol Bergquist's butterfly reportWe have set aside an area on the southern side to encourage native butterflies. This area won’t be mown but left in a natural state. 


Tuff Crater is one of several explosion craters in the Auckland area, breached by the sea it is now a mangrove estuary. The northern rim was extensively modified during World War 2 when the Americans excavated and started but never finished building fuel tanks. Some of the concrete bases of these tanks still exist. Steep tuff cliffs exist on the north and south sides.

Geology of Tank Farm Volcano

Predator Control 

We have a volunteer-driven pest control program at the reserve. We now have a network of 55 rat bait stations around the reserve monitored by 6 keen volunteers as well as some possum and stoat traps. The gear and bait is provided with the support of Auckland Council. 

We have a network of monitoring tunnels which indicate significant rat levels prior to predator control. Rats eat  birds, eggs, chicks and also the food which birds and lizards eat. They are significant predators and competitors and controlling them is a high priority. Monitoring indicates a dramatic drop in rat levels at Tuff Crater.


Read research on the fuel tanks at Tuff Crater from Navy museum:

Archaeology Report 2001 1 PDF
Archaeology Report 2001 2 PDF
Archaeology Map JPG
Birkenhead Historical Society. (2006). Members Stories: The Northcote Fuel Tank Farm to 1989. Speech given to the Birkenhead Historical Society 13 May 2006

Volunteers Tuff Crater (photo P Moll)