Suzanne Hills - Trustee

The West Coast Penguin Trust is delighted that Suzanne Hills has become a Trustee.  Suzanne brings a passion for the West Coast and its biodiversity as well as considerable conservation and sustainability knowledge and experience.

Suzanne describes a conventional start in life growing up in Tauranga, completing a degree in biotechnology at Massey University and a subsequent career in the food industry before leaving NZ for an extended working OE in Scotland.

After 7 years on the West Coast of Scotland, NZ’s West Coast called, and together with her partner now husband, she took to sea for many years sailing (very slowly, many detours) back to NZ.  The voyage gave her a window into the mysterious lives of seabirds out on the high seas, and her highlight was the time spent sailing the penguin and seabird metropolis of the Falkland Islands (see some photos below).

sailing Jason Islands, Falklands
Suzanne Hills – sailing in the Jason Islands, Falklands

Now a sensible landlubber again, Suzanne lives in a tiny house with a large vegetable garden on the Barrytown Flats where she enjoys growing food, the wonders of solar cooking, tramping and involvement in local environmental action and advocacy.

Find out more in her own words below and find out more about the whole Trust team here.

One of the joys of living on the West Coast is being surrounded by nature, and that’s certainly the case where I live on the Barrytown Flats with the Paparoa range rising to the east and the expansive Tasman sea to the west. Added to that is the overhead dimension of a deep dark night sky. Truly impressive and having spent many weeks gazing at starry skies while on watch crossing oceans, there’s little perceivable difference between a clear Barrytown Flat’s night sky and the striking quality of a mid-ocean one. A treasure to hold onto, particularly for the Westland petrel with its susceptibility to light disorientation.

From a sailor’s perspective, approaching a coastline at night with multiple lights ashore can be mind-bending, especially after a long sleep deprived ocean passage. Even with all the navigation aids, it’s very easy to become disorientated. Add in mist, drizzle or low cloud and what looks right often is not, and what looks wrong may well be right!

Next month, as Westland petrels start returning to their breeding ground after an 11,000km flight from Chilean waters, some birds may experience similar disorientation. And while switching off the Punakaiki street lights during the summer appears to have lessened the problem for petrel fledglings in that area, the nocturnal environment of the whole Barrytown Flats/Punakaiki area could be protected and even further enhanced year round under an International Dark Sky Park designation. Together with the support of local people, iwi and councils, this could be achieved for the wellbeing of people and all the taonga wildlife we share the area with.

Having had the privilege of sailing some of world’s oceans, it’s wonderful to be a part of the Trust with it’s dedication to protecting West Coast seabirds.

Macaroni penguin family
Black browed albatross chicks
Gentoo penguins – above and below photos