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.

Riley Edwards

Biosecurity Officer

Riley grew up in the small town of Wellsford and loves the environment and the simpler things in life. She has worked for DOC in the South Island on numerous projects, including pest control efforts in the Kahurangi National Park in Nelson. She has also been involved in monitoring endemic skink species from Queenstown to Te Anau.

Riley gets up in the morning knowing her mahi will support a cause she is passionate about – protecting our beautiful and unique wildlife. After a big day outdoors, she enjoys slow-paced hobbies, such as sewing, poetry, and yoga.

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.

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.