Whangārei Heads team - Predator Free Whangārei

Predator Free Whangārei is a collaborative project which involves a multitude of people from community groups to individual volunteers. This project is facilitated by the Northland Regional Council with kaimahi on the ground at Whangārei Heads for the possum elimination project. Get to know the team!

Oly Hopwood

Project Manager, Biosecurity Specialist

Oly has years of experience in the adventure tourism industry both in New Zealand and abroad. Prior to this role, he was running a grizzly bear guiding and rafting businesses in Canada! He has also spent eight years with Auckland Council as a park ranger, facilitating volunteer-based community animal pest control programmes.

Oly lives in Whangārei Heads and his favourite spot in Northland is Kauri Mountain Beach. He enjoys kayaking, mountain biking, hunting, surfing and spearfishing.

Zac Coffin

Operations Lead, Biosecurity Specialist

Zac grew up in the fishing village of Mangonui and has worked in conservation across Aotearoa, including in Waikato and the Western regions of the South Island. He brings a wealth of knowledge from his previous experience at the Department of Conservation (DOC) and other conservation-related mahi. He worked as a Threatened Species Ranger protecting endangered fauna such as long-tailed bats and Powelliphanta snails. He has also helped build parts of the Paparoa track.

Zac is a modern-day bushman and is happiest when he sees healthy native ngahere with abundant birdsong during his frequent tramping adventures.

Gaelyn Dewhurst

Biosecurity Officer

Gaelyn is a local Ocean Beach resident who has always had a passion for working in conservation. She has a degree in Animal Science, a diploma in Vet Nursing and was involved in a range of volunteer initiatives, including monitoring kiwi for the Bream Head Conservation Trust.

She is very excited to be a part of a community project and contribute to the ecological restoration of a place she calls home.

Gaelyn loves spending time with her family, making home crafts, yoga, and a range of outdoor activities, such as hiking, fishing, camping, surfing and mountain biking.

Hadden Morrison

Biosecurity Officer

Hadden grew up in Wellington with parents working for The Mountain Safety Council and The Wildlife Service so it was inevitable he would work in conservation one day. Before that day arrived his career has seen him snowmaking in Queenstown, canyon guiding in Glenorchy, producing some of NZ's biggest music festivals and managing off grid lodges in Kangaroo Valley & Pureora Forest Park. He attests to his own motto 'Life's a Bush', as he works with many other conservation groups across Whangārei heads.

He now lives in Little Munro Bay and would love to see Whangārei Heads become a nature reserve or National Park. In his off time he's enjoying the warmer climate of Northland, wrangling toddlers, washing off the bush in the ocean and cooking for friends.

Holly Brown

Biosecurity Officer

Holly is a multigenerational Whangārei Heads local and loves being able to work in the place she calls home. She was born in Whangārei, lived abroad from when she was young, and returned back home to be closer to family and be amongst New Zealand’s beautiful natural landscapes. Holly has worked on various projects across Northland and Auckland involving pest control of both invasive weeds and animal pests, on farms, DOC land, private properties, and in sanctuaries.

Holly is passionate about working in this space and being able to witness the results of the hard work she puts in, right in her backyard, where she is from. In her spare time she enjoys exploring the country, hiking, swimming, spending time with friends and family.

Simon Braithwaite

Biosecurity Officer

Simon was born in the Far North and moved to Parua Bay during his Primary School years. After two decades in mechanical maintenance and years of wanting a career change, a Ranger opportunity with the Bream Head Conservation Trust presented itself, not long after completing a Pest Ops course at Northtech Te Pukenga.

Simon has a strong belief that every effort should be made in protecting our taonga that forms the fabric of our natural environment and gives New Zealand its unique identity. He considers having the opportunity to live locally and work in Whangarei Heads on a Predator Free 2050 conservation project is an absolute privilege.

Simon lives at Ocean Beach on a 24ha bush regeneration project where he spends a lot of his spare time trapping, weeding, planting and child rearing. Simon dreams of having the time to enjoy the outdoor pursuits that were a major part of his earlier life like sailing, surfing, fishing and hang gliding.

Gavin Condon

Biosecurity Officer

Gavin is originally from Auckland but has also lived in the United Kingdom and the South Island of New Zealand, and has worked in conservation both abroad and locally. In NZ, he has worked for the Department of Conservation, plus other ecological restoration companies and volunteer groups for over a decade.

Gavin regards pest control as a niche and is excited to be part of the Predator Free Whangarei project, learning new things about pest eradication.

In his personal time, Gavin is a passionate sports fisherman in both freshwater and saltwater. He also enjoys photography, illustration and time with family.

Katelyn McNamara

Biosecurity Officer

Katelyn grew up in Queensland, Australia, and came over to live in Whangarei many years ago. She fell in love with the rohe, the fauna and flora, and has come back to stay. Through volunteer opportunities and studying conservation at Te Pukenga she soon found the life of a possum trapper to be a rewarding way to be out in the ngahere helping the te taiao.

She was working on a Zero Possum project when she found the position of chasing and catching possums in Whangarei Heads and sprung at the opportunity.
With a healthy curiosity and fascination with different ecosystems, Katelyn wishes to see the ecological ecosystems of the Heads as healthy and thriving with life as it should be.

During the weekend Katelyn likes to spend time in the ocean, gardening and eating food with friends and family.

Sam Johnson

Predator Free Manager

Once a Head Prefect at Whangārei Boys’ High School, Sam is a natural leader who is great at seeing ‘the big picture’. He has a passion for the primary sector and had a lengthy career in the banking industry in Tai Tokerau. He worked as a Principal Advisor at Te Puni Kōkiri (Ministry of Māori Development), supporting Māori farmers to achieve greater outcomes for their whenua. Sam’s mahi has always been driven by his willingness to help others and to build a stronger Tai Tokerau.

In his spare time, Sam enjoys all outdoor sports, working on his small farm in Kamo, and spending time with his family.

Joanne Kim

Communications and Engagement Co-ordinator

Joanne has called Whangārei home since her kindergarten days and has always felt a connection to the natural environment (her Korean name does mean nature after all!). She has years of communications experience working abroad in Melbourne and in Whangārei, including developing partnerships with wildlife related non-profits from all around the world. A career highlight has been working with local marine biologist Dr Ingrid Visser to help raise awareness about orca and launch the world’s first ever World Leopard Seal Day!

Joanne enjoys going to the beach for a swim or hanging out with friends and family with delicious food and drinks.