Great Farming Stories

Barrie Cook Whakatomotomo

9 June 2020

Barrie Cook Whakatomotomo

What began as a lifestyle choice has largely become a mission to preserve a native wetland forest – the last remnant of its kind in the Whakatomotomo Valley.

Referring to the property as ‘The Sanctuary’, owner Barrie Cook says the forest is an example of what the valley was like before human settlement. Featuring old kahikatea as well as pukatea, swamp maire, tawa and nikau, five acres of the forest is protected by a QEII National Trust covenant.

“It contrasts with, and complements, conventional farming in the valley and the other small blocks – forming an interesting, mixed rural community and environment,” he says.


The property borders Palliser Ridge Station – Greater Wellington’s Regional Supreme Winner at the 2019 Ballance Farm Environment Awards. Palliser Ridge has actively helped the lifestyle property in several ways, including restoring some of the natural run-off of water into the forest. 

Problems with water supply were brought into strong focus after a significant number of trees died in 2016. With help from the Greater Wellington Regional Council and the QEII National Trust, a lack of soil water was identified as the likely cause and they have since worked co-operatively to identify practical solutions. This includes the installation of a piezometer in the forest, with a real-time reader to measure groundwater levels. 

Birds are flourishing at The Sanctuary, with 36 bird species recorded to date. The judges were impressed with Barrie’s knowledge of native bird and plant species, and how keen he is to learn more. They also commended Barrie’s preparedness to allow access to others, with various community and interest groups visiting the forest.

The judges described the overall lifestyle block, with its gardens, orchard, collection of exotic trees and native flora, as striking and balanced. They commended how the current and previous owners have recognised the importance of conserving its unique forest.

2020 Awards received:

  • Greater Wellington Regional Council Akura Plant Nursery Lifestyle Farm Award

Read more about the awards.