Peter Garden ONZM – outstanding helicopter pilot and conservator

Sunday 10th November 2019

Peter Garden is one of New Zealand's top helicopter pilots. He is well known for pest eradication assignments in far flung places.

Peter Garden ONZM. Helicopter Pilot.
Peter Garden ONZM. Helicopter Pilot.

Peter Garden (1959-61, #1603) was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) in the 2017 New Year’s Honours for his services to aviation and conservation.

He has flown helicopters for more than 30 years and has held a range of positions within the New Zealand aviation industry.

Peter has been Helicopter Safety Counsellor and Chair of the Helicopter Division for the Aviation Industry Association of New Zealand and has been Chairman of the Steering Committee of the New Zealand Helicopter Association.

For a number of years, he has run his own company, Peter Garden Helicopters Ltd, specialising in agricultural work around Southland and Otago. He has been Aviation Advisor to New Zealand Land Search and Rescue and a founding Trustee of Southern Region Air Ambulance Trust and the Forest Hill Foundation. He is regarded as one of the world’s pre-eminent eradication helicopter pilots and has been involved with numerous predator eradication projects with the Department of Conservation and other New Zealand and international organisations. He was the Chief Pilot for predator eradication on the sub-Antarctic Campbell Island, and lead pilot for various Habitat Enhancement Programmes internationally, including the Pacific Islands, the Seychelles and the Aleutian Islands. From 2013 to 2015 Mr Garden was Helicopter Advisor and Flight Operations Manager for South Georgia Heritage Trust for the eradication of rats from South Georgia Island during the final phases of this five-year project.

On 10 May 2018 the following story was written about Peter by Mark Price from the Otago Daily Times

‘Wanaka helicopter pilot Peter Garden got the news this morning: the South Atlantic island of South Georgia is officially free of rats and mice for the first time in more than 200 years.

It was a moment of satisfaction for Mr Garden who is one of just three people who has been involved with the world's biggest rodent eradication programme all the way from 2006.

"South Georgia would probably have to be the highlight of my aviation career, let alone my eradication career. It's teeming with marine wild life and now the bird life has got a chance to bounce back as well.''

South Georgia (108,723ha) is a British overseas territory discovered by Captain James Cook in 1775 and five days by ship from the Falkland Islands.

Mr Garden was the flight operations manager, chief pilot and aviation advisor for the South Georgia Heritage Trust, a private Scottish conservation organisation that ran the $20million project.

A team of helicopter pilots dropped bait laced with the anticoagulant poison brodifacoum over the island, targeting mostly rats but also mice in one area.

Mr Garden said a lot of New Zealanders were involved, including pilots and ground crew.

New Scientist and the Press Association has reported more than 4600 detection devices, including chewsticks coated with peanut butter, tracking tunnels and camera traps, as well as three sniffer dogs, had been deployed to check for any rodents left alive.

Professor Mike Richardson, chairman of the project's steering committee was reported as saying "to the best of our knowledge this island is rodent-free for the first time in two and a half centuries.''

Mr Garden has been involved with many offshore island rodent eradication programmes, beginning with Campbell Island, cleared of rats in 2001.

He is now looking forward to two eradication jobs next year - one of giant mice on Gough Island in the South Atlantic and the other of mice on Midway Atoll in the Pacific.

He said he would like to go back to South Georgia at some stage to see how the island had changed but was not sure if that would happen.’


Peter Garden, a great McGlashan man.