Managing the Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Environmental Sustainability

​Discover Waitomo is privileged to be both the commercial operator and kaitiaki of the Waitomo Glowworm Cave, the Ruakuri Cave and the Aranui Cave. These caves are a precious taonga to the Ruapuha Uekaha Hapu and Aotearoa New Zealand.  Kaitiakitanga is at the core of all everything that Discover Waitomo does.  With great privilege comes great responsibility. It is this sense of responsibility to our people and place that underpins our values – Kaitiakitanga, Manaakitanga, Whanaungatanga – and inspires our comprehensive sustainability strategy – Te Uira I Roto – The Glow Within. Check it out here. Some aspects of sustainability work include:​


Cave ecosystem health is inextricably linked to catchment and stream ecosystem health – the condition of the catchment impacts the condition of caves. To improve the catchment ecosystems we assist with fencing to exclude stock from waterways and plant the riparian margins of streams and wetlands. 

Working closely with Waikato Regional Council, The Waitomo Catchment Trust Board and volunteer groups we seek out catchment restoration projects, collaborating and co-funding with these groups to deliver multiple restoration projects across the Waitomo region. 

Toda date, this collaboration has resulted in planting 15500 trees, 12,443 meter of fencing worth $178,000 of which $37,125 was funded by Discover Waitomo. We are always looking for more catchment restoration projects

Research commissioned by Discover Waitomo identifies improving conditions in the stream glowing into the caves, including return of pollution sensitive species, and attributes this in part to the success of riparian planting which is set to continue.​


Partnering with the Department of Conservation (2017) we created an environmental position assist with the conservation of beautiful karst and cave landscape and biodiversity. This position joins our Environmental Manager and has the objectives:

  • Maintain a systematic monitoring, trapping, baiting predator management programme to restore and conserve our biodiversity – the vitality of native fauna and flora
  • Share our beautiful cave and karst landscape native biodiversity and the conservation values that protect it.
  • Create opportunities for volunteers to participate in conservation.

This partnership continues to expand and deliver outstanding results reducing rat and possum numbers and protect native biodiversity. Since 2017 this work has expanded the bait station network in Waitomo by 56 traps and the trap network by 122 as well as upgrading technology to include 61 self-setting Good Nature A24 traps.

The Environmental team also manage an extensive rodenticide baiting operation (250+ bait stations across the Waitomo Glowworm Cave reserve, Waitomo Scenic reserve and the famous Ruakuri reserve, reinstated all baiting tracks and undertook rodent and possum monitoring. In total this is 160ha of predator control.

Based on tunnel tracking index (how many rats are in the area) results, rats (at the time of writing) are now at undetectable levels in 2 reserves and have been reduced by 57% in the third reserve. Correspondingly, reports indicate an increase in the number of birds and birdsong.​

Cave & Karst Conservation

Discover Waitomo is committed to developing knowledge and has a history of supporting scientific research. We are currently supporting a Waikato University BSc Honors project by providing a $10,000 scholarship to fund research into the dissolution of soluble limestone (cave formations) by condensation corrosion (acidic water in the form condensation).

Discover Waitomo manages a world leading cave monitoring network. Measuring climate variables – carbon dioxide, wind velocity, temperate, humidity, stream height – as well as a, unique in the world, continuous time-lapse monitoring of the glowworm population dynamics light intensity and light frequency ensure we have good understanding of our environment.

Recently, development of multi-variant predictive model that predicts carbon dioxide emissions from visitors in the cave and informs decisions making related to maximum daily visitor admitted per day ensures Discover Waitomo is at the forefront of science, technology and sustainable management.​


Discover Waitomo is at the forefront of recycling with a comprehensive programme including public multi-language recycling bins, simple waste streams and a dedicated recycling sorting table.​