Our Team

Jeff Hamilton and the Onuku Team

Jeff was one of the main forces behind the creation of the Banks Track. He has held major roles with bookings, bus pick-up (in his farm truck) and orientation as well as providing the purpose built lodge at Ōnuku and a land crossing.
Ōnuku farm has been in the Hamilton family since the 1850’s. Alongside his farming and the Banks Peninsula Track Jeff has Ōnuku Farm Hostel, boat trips on Akaroa Harbour, and a camper park.

Jack and Charlotte Gibbs

Jack and Charlotte are the newest land owners on the Banks Track. They both take an active role in the management of the track.

Since arriving at Ōnuku Heights six years ago they have initiated a predator control programme aimed at restoring native birdlife.   This initially focused on possum control but with the help of the Wildside coordinator, Marie Hayley, they have broadened to include all mustelids (rats, ferrets, stoats and weasels). So far 20 hectares of regenerating bush has been closed off to livestock.  Both native flora and native fauna are now flourishing. Birdlife is especially abundant (and noisy!) . They believe that they are “farming beauty”; balancing the objectives of livestock grazing and increasing biodiversity through the management of a mosaic landscape.

Francis and Shireen Helps

Since the Helps’ purchase of Flea Bay in 1969 areas have been set aside for conservation. Now more than 32 hectares are covered by covenants, with the balance run as a sheep and beef farm. Francis and Shireen’s life in Flea Bay is lived among the largest mainland colony of little penguins. They have achieved an enormous amount of conservation work, especially with predator control and little penguin breeding.

Francis has held a number of positions in the company. He and Shireen enjoy meeting the Banks Track walkers many of who turn up for the free penguin tour or the kayak trip offered by Pōhatu Penguin.

Mark and Sonia Armstrong

Mark has lived all his life at Stony Bay, on the farm known as Ōpātuti where Sonia joined him in 1973.
Mark and Sonia were enthusiastic pioneers of the idea to develop the Banks Track and have been central to its success thus far.
Mark designed and built the accommodation at Stony Bay, including the ‘shower in the tree’ and ‘bath under the stars’. More recently he built Seal Cove Shelter.
Mark and Sonia have been at the forefront of farm conservation throughout their time in Stony Bay, initiating many projects and creating covenants on the property. Their philosophy for sustainable land use is to maintain best environmental management practice and to work towards balancing the carbon footprint of the farm by ongoing tree planting and offsetting the units gained through their participation in the Permanent Forest Sink Initative (PFSI).

Hugh Wilson

Hugh Wilson is the manager of Hinewai Reserve. He is a well known botanist, writer, and artist who has written many books on New Zealand’s natural history. Hugh has been a key figure in the Banks Track since it opened. He wrote our Banks Track booklet and he does a track inspection at the beginning of each season. He has held a number of positions within the track organisation and has provided signage along the Banks Track.

Mafi Gehrig

Originally from Switzerland, Mafi has lived at Ōnuku or Akaroa since the Banks Track opened in 1989 and has been our office manager since 1996. She is also involved in pack cartage bus driving for our Track.

If you contact the Track, it is generally Mafi who will be your first contact.

Paul Chandler

Paul has been the Banks Track bus driver for many years and provides pack cartage along the route.

He also runs an Outer Bays Tours taxi business (including Christchurch and airport pick-ups for Track walkers), and the Wainui mail delivery business in Akaroa Harbour.