Back in 2014, consultation began with Te Hapū o Ngati Wheke – Rāpaki on works to re-open the Sumner Road after the Canterbury earthquake.

Marieke Lettink, guardian of the geckos and Yvette Couch-Lewis, friend of the geckos, commenced discussion with the Christchurch City Council to retrieve 200 or more gecko from the Crater Rim bluffs above Sumner Road, then to be released into a new home in Riccarton Bush, before works commenced.

March this year, the first geckos retrieved from the bluffs were released into their new home. Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke, represented by Yvette formally handed over the kaitiakitanga of the geckos from her rohe in the Port Hills to that of Ngāi Tūāhuriri, represented by Te Marino Lenihan.

There are now 209 geckos living in the bush. They were released in three big vine-covered trees, all within about a week of the first release. Nineteen were fitted with transmitters and Marieke is continuing to monitor their movements – one or two have been very adventurous (for a gecko that normally doesn’t go far) and travelled distances of 20-30m between checks.

All of the animals released by Yvette and Te Marino in the first tree have stayed there, suggesting that they are happy and settled – in more scientific terms their needs for food, shelter and companionship are met.

“This project has gathered a huge (and continuing) amount of public interest and it was great to see other people’s aroha for these animals. It was a very heart-felt send-off and I want to thank you both (Yvette and Te Marino) again for being there on the day,” says Marieke.

Two of the geckos.

Two of the geckos.