The 'Banks Peninsula Track Company'
is a co-operative of neighbouring properties, which has worked together for over twenty years. It is wholly owned by these neighbouring families, and is solely operated by them in conjunction with local contractors for booking services, transport, and car parking (who have themselves been closely associated with the 'Track' for many years).
Seven shareholding properties form the Company with other land crossings held by them as concessions. This diversity of ownership coupled with such a range of landscapes makes the Banks Peninsula Track not only the original but also the most unique private tramping track in New Zealand.
Jeff Hamilton ~ Onuku Farm
Jeff Hamilton was one of the main forces behind the creation of the Banks Peninsula Track, and for a number of years he had a major role with bookings, bus pick-up (in his farm truck) and orientation. More recently he spent three years as part of the chair group. Jeff invested a great deal in the Track, commissioning all the new lodge buildings at Onuku which he also helped to build.
Onuku farm has been in the Hamilton family since the 1850's. 30 years ago, Jeff started the Onuku Farm Hostel which you walk past at the start of your hike up the farm track on your first morning. He now offers boat trips on Akaroa Harbour and runs the Track walkers accommodation.
Providing both two and four day accommodation in addition to a land crossing, Onuku Farm is one of the two largest shareholdings on the Banks Peninsula Track - the other being Stony Bay.
Jack & Charlotte Gibbs ~ Onuku Heights
Jack and Charlotte Gibbs are the newest land owners on the BPT, having recently arrived from the UK. They are both keen on the natural environment and are looking forward to further enhancing the already diverse flora and fauna on the property.
Francis & Shireen Helps ~ Flea Bay
The Flea Bay property was purchased by Francis and Steve Helps as a development farm in 1969. Areas were set aside for conservation and by now more than 80 acres are covered by covenants, with the balance run as a sheep and beef store farm alongside the home property in Akaroa.
Francis and Shireen live in Flea Bay where they have done an enormous amount of conservation work, especially with predator control and with fostering the growing white flippered penguin colony.
Francis is the official Track 'spokesperson', has held a number of positions in the company and sees many of the walkers whilst providing the (seasonal) penguin tour.
Shireen sees many of the walkers guiding her kayaking trips which receive great feedback.
Francis and Shireen run Kayaking on Pohatu Marine Reserve & Little Blue Penguin Viewing at Flea Bay, in addition to the trips for Track walkers.
The penguin sanctuary at Flea Bay has been the subject of a number of international and national documentaries, see
Mark and Sonia Armstrong ~ Stony Bay
No-one has been more central to the Banks Peninsula Track than Mark and Sonia Armstrong.
Enthusiastic pioneers of the idea, they were responsible for all the print advertising and tourism body liason from the beginning until early 2012, as well as being the largest shareholding.
Mark has designed and built the wonderful and eclectic buildings at Stony Bay, including the 'shower in the tree and 'bath under the stars' ~ his latest inspiration was 'The Gull and Shag' shelter at the Seal Cave between Flea Bay and Stony Bay.
In addition to her marketing role, Sonia has spent many years as chairperson of the Track. Mark has lived all his life at Stony Bay, on the farm known as Opatuti where Sonia joined him in 1973.
They have been at the forefront of farm conservation throughout, initiating many projects and creating covenants on the property. They purchased neighbouring land in 2001 to safeguard the Track route, for farming viability, development, and conservation purposes.
Sheep farming has been in slow but steady decline for the forty years Mark has been farming at Stony Bay. The number of sheep needed to make a living has increased from 600 in his fathers time, to 7000 by 2010. The majority of BP farms have been unable to expand at that pace.
In 2005 Mark and Sonia changed their farming aim from having an economic farm, to providing a thoroughly up to date modern well maintained unit, the grazing right to which can be leased by other farms needing more land to be economic. Mark now works mainly as a fencer.
Traditionally each new generation took on the task of rebuilding and renewing a farm's fences, but with no one in sight at this stage Mark is now 7 years into his 2nd rebuild. A slow job in this country where 20m in an 8 hour day is considered good going and there are some 30 kilometres to tackle.
Doug Hood & Fiona Farrell ~ Otanerito Beach
Doug Hood and Fiona Farrell bought the Otanerito Beach house and converted the front of the house for use by Track walkers in 1994, becoming the only non land - crossing shareholding on the Track. Doug had been involved with the Track in varying roles since it opened in 1989. In 2007 he took on the role of website design and content management for the Track. He runs the Track accommodation at Otanerito.
Fiona Farrell is an award winning New Zealand novelist, poet, and playwright. Fiona has held the Katherine Mansfield and Rathcoola fellowships in France and Ireland as well as the Burns Fellowship in Dunedin in 2011. In 2007 Fiona received the NZ Prime Ministers Award for Fiction, and an ONZM in the 2012 Queens Birthday Honours. She was awarded the Michael King Fellowship in 2013.
Brian & Fay Narbey ~ Renegat Farm, Long Bay
Brian and Fay Narbey are owners of Renegat Farm which has been in the Narbey family since 1850. When the Track opened in 1989, Brian was farming in partnership with his brother Philip, but the partnership ended in 1993 with Philip and Maria moving to Christchurch and Brian and Fay taking over the farm.
The track through the farm is the longest of the land crossings and stretches from Stony Bay headland to the Hinewai Reserve boundary. Brian has a bee keeping business based at Woodend north of Christchurch in addition to farming sheep and cattle at Long Bay (Otanerito).
Hugh Wilson ~ Hinewai Reserve
Hugh Wilson has been a key figure in the Banks Peninsula Track since it opened in 1989. During that time the Hinewai Reserve, where Hugh lives at an altitude of 450m, has changed from being the smallest acreage of the original shareholding properties to by far the largest of the current properties. Manager and Trustee of Hinewai Reserve, Hugh is a well known botanist, writer, artist and cyclist. He has written many books on New Zealand's natural history, including field guides to the plants of Mt Cook National Park and Stewart Island. In 2013 he published 'Plant Life on Banks Peninsula', an outstanding book dedicated to "Hinewai Reserve and everything that lives, works and dies there".
Hugh wrote our informative guide booklet for the Track and walks the four day walk each year at the beginning of the season to provide both a safety audit and recommended work for the Track members. He has held a number of positions including chairperson, attended virtually every meeting of the Track group since 1989 and adds a unique perspective to the Company. He has also contributed innumerable hours of maintenance, track marking and signage on both Hinewai and many of the other Track properties.
Our local Staff and Contractors
Mafi Gehrig ~ Office Manager
Originally from Switzerland, Mafi Gehrig has lived at Onuku or Akaroa since the Track opened in 1989 and has been our office manager since 1996.
Mafi is a keen cyclist and runner and has competed in a number of events including the 'coast to coast' triathalon. In addition to her Track office work she runs 'Mafi's Kayak trip' on Akaroa Harbour, which is small and friendly, and is also involved in pack cartage for the Track.
If you contact the Track, it is generally Mafi who will be your first contact.
Paul Chandler ~ Bus Driver
Paul Chandler has been driving our Track bus for the last nine years. Paul formerly worked for DOC (Department of Conservation) in Arthurs Pass. He also runs an outer bays tours taxi business (including Christchurch and airport pick-ups for Track walkers), and the Wainui mail delivery business in Akaroa Harbour.
Paul is also involved in providing pack cartage for the full pack cartage option.
Tricia Hewlett & Paul Newport ~ Hinewai Reserve
Tricia Hewlett and Paul Newport live at Otanerito Homestead which is the assistant managers' house on Hinewai Reserve.
Paul worked for a number of summer seasonal contracts on Hinewai before he and Tricia moved permanently to Otanerito in 2008 to take up the assistant manager role.
Paul and Tricia are both very involved in the local community, in both arts and rural associations, as well as developing their garden at Otanerito.
Paul has contributed greatly to the Track maintenance and signage, especially but not only in the Otanerito valley.
~ Winter Booking Office
Tricia is minutes secretary for the Track business and runs our winter booking office when Mafi is away.