City |

He Tuku Aroha.
Meet the Locals.


New Zealand is home to a diverse range of environments which support a stunning array of plants and habitats, each with it’s own unique combination of species. Meet the Locals He Tuku Aroha aims to capture this beauty and diversity and tell the story of our landscape, taking visitors on a journey from the coast to the farm and up into the bush and the mountains, meeting the local animals along the way.

Right The site plan works with existing vegetation and topography to create a gently path that winds up through valley.

With the local community helping plant 1000’s of native plants and over 5,000 people through the gate in the first weekend, Meet the Locals He Tuku Aroha is a project with deep roots.

The result of a close collaboration between Isthmus and the team at Wellington Zoo, Meet the Locals He Tuku Aroha is designed to connect us back to our land, give us perspective on ourselves, and to push us towards an awareness of the diversity and beauty of New Zealand.

Left Community planting day
within ‘bush builders’.

This interactive series of zoo spaces was designed so that children and adults can learn through engagement, exploration and play – it’s a living landscape, the kind of place where kunekune pigs wallow while children jump in muddy puddles or forage for eggs. It is intended to be used.

The zoo site is nestled out of sight from the city in a valley adjacent to the town belt. Within, a network of new paths, infrastructure and buildings has been woven amongst the topography and the trees to create an immersive experience that feels like it could always been there.

Above left Interaction with the kunekune pigs.

Left An old over grown aviary is repurposed as a children’s play structure including quotes from some of the young users.

From the entrance, visitors cross into Penguin Point, which is an abstraction of Wellington’s coastal landscape, constructed from wharf timbers (reclaimed from Wellington Waterfront). A lifesavers boat from maranui surf club sits alongside colourful boat houses evocative of the city while the rocky landscape of native planting is home to the kororā (little blue penguin).

The Pōhutukawa Farm celebrates New Zealand’s strong ties to the land and the significance of agriculture in our nation’s story. It highlights the interconnectivity of people with land and farming in New Zealand. Here you’ll find community vegetable gardens, kunekune pigs, sheep and eels mixing in with places for play activities. The barn, a farm focal point, is for learning and interaction; it’s a hive of activity – as indicated more literally by the sculptural bees buzzing around the roof space.

“Having a strong background in visitor experience we had some fairly fixed ideas about what we wanted in this space in terms of colour and activity and it was never any problem for Isthmus to accommodate these ‘suggestions’. They helped us to deliver a beautiful and special place that has quickly become a favourite destination for our Zoo visitors.”

— Amy Hughes, General Manager Community Engagements

Above The barn and movable gardens nestled into the valley.

In Bush Builders, the sights and sounds of indigenous New Zealand are made a unique part of the zoo. Immersed in regenerating bush, visitors can experience the interesting and distinctive aspects of New Zealand’s indigenous species in their natural habitat, which is demonstrated through interactive conservation and opportunities to explore, build and play in the surrounding bush.

The project’s final stage, Mountain Encounter, the zoo’s first walk-through alpine aviary, is a place for guests to enjoy the aerial antics of kea as they fly above and interact within their environment.

Team Members
Sophie Jacques, Lisa Rimmer, Tessa Macphail, Wade Lipsham, Andrew Norriss, James Pattullo,
Past Team Members

Daniel Males, Alistair Luke

Consultant Team
Te Mahi


Wellington Zoo


2018 Resene Total Colour Landscape Award
2017 NZILA Category Winner / Institutional
2016 Resene Total Colour, Colour Maestro Award
2016 New Zealand Commercial Projects Award Silver