Hunt, Janet

Hunt, Janet


Primary publisher
Massey University Press

In Brief

Janet Hunt is an acclaimed writer, academic and graphic designer. In 2004, her study of New Zealand wildlife won Best in Non-Fiction and Book of the Year at the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, as well as the Elsie Locke Award at the LIANZA Children's Book Awards. In 2008, her Wetlands of New Zealand: A Bitter-Sweet Story won the Environment Award and the Montana Medal for Non-Fiction at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards. Hunt has also written feature articles for The NZ Herald arts pages.


Hunt, Janet (1951 –) is a writer, academic and graphic designer. She was born in Taranaki. After completing a Bachelor of Arts with Honours at Massey University, she went on to complete a Diploma in Teaching at Palmerston North Teacher’s College and a Master of Arts in English at the University of Auckland.

Professionally, Hunt initially worked as a primary and secondary teacher. She went on to lecture in design, graphics and media at both the Auckland Institute of Technology and University of Auckland. She has also worked in publishing as a production editor.

Hunt published her first book Hone Tuwhare: A Biography in 1998. Terry Sturm writes, in The Evening Post, that ‘the book’s scholarship, lightly worn, is impeccable, and provides a great deal of new information about Tuwhare… In the text itself there are excellent discussions of Tuwhare’s books and fascinating accounts of his methods and composition of revision.’

Hunt's next book, A Bird in the Hand: Keeping New Zealand Wildlife Safe (Random House, 2003) was targeted at a younger audience. It won Book of the Year and Best in Non-Fiction at the 2004 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. It also won the Elsie Locke Award at the LIANZA Children's Book Awards in 2004, and was listed as a 2004 Storylines Notable Non-Fiction Book.

In addition to her books, Hunt contributed poetry to A Brief Description of the Whole World (1995) and has written feature articles for The NZ Herald arts pages.

In 2004, Janet Hunt designed and wrote From Weta to Kauri: A Guide to the New Zealand Forest (Random House, 2004), a great book to put in your backpack when you go walking and tramping in the bush. Over 300 species of insects, birds and plants are described in a way that is clear and easy to follow, and the book is packed with photos by Rob Lucas to help with identification. The work was a finalist in the non-fiction at the 2005 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and was listed as a 2005 Storylines Notable Non-Fiction Book.

Wetlands of New Zealand: A Bitter-sweet Story (Random House, 2007) won the Environment Category of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, and the Montana Medal for Non-Fiction at the 2008 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.

In 2009, Janet Hunt released E3 Call Home, a true story of godwit migration and misadventure. The story centers on a godwit tagged as 'E3', who varied his usual route to Alaska for the breeding season, instead turning back and losing his transmitter somewhere near the coast of Australia. Adult godwits make this incredible flight from New Zealand to Alaska each year, and 2007 was the first time that scientists had tried to follow it. The journey was followed closely online by millions of people from all over the world. E3 Call Home was listed as a 2010 Storylines Notable Non-Fiction Book, and is a finalist for the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

Hunt co-authored Paradise Saved: The Remarkable Story of New Zealand's Wildlife Sanctuaries and How They Are Stemming the Tide of Extinction (Random House, 2014) with Dave Butler and Tony Lindsay. The book details the endeavours of over 100 community groups who are rolling up sleeves to remove pest animals and plants from wildlife sanctuaries and reserves all around New Zealand. There is also a section about the many groups who are working to save our precious kiwi: no matter how large or small, this book inspires with its many stories and photographs.

Janet Hunt's Our Big Blue Backyard: New Zealand’s Oceans and Marine Reserves (Random House, 2014) is a companion to the Natural History New Zealand television series of the same name. The size and complexity of New Zealand’s marine world is little known or appreciated. This book addresses that in a small way: it begins with an overview and then moves close up, using our 38 marine reserves, which are both typical and increasingly representative of the best, as windows into this vast, mysterious, other world. Our Big Blue Backyard is enriched by anecdotes from divers and scientists and by cameos of ocean life and other illustrations.

How to mend a Kea: + other fabulous fix-it tales from Wildbase Hospital, Massey University Press, 2017 tells a little of the larger story of New Zealand’s network of the people who rescue and care for wildlife that has come to grief in some way, including bird rescue centres, veterinary clinics and private citizens. Most of all, it tells the story of Wildbase, the veterinary hospital for New Zealand wildlife that is attached to the Massey University Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences. Along the way we meet key people involved in the care of wildlife as well as a selection of patients, including, of course, the very mischievous kea, patient # 78129. As the blurb says, it is ‘the perfect book for everyone who cares about our wild creatures and wants to know more about how they are helped when they are ill or injured.'

In 2019, Janet Hunt wrote Three Kiwi Tales: more fabulous fix-it stories from Wildbase Hospital (Massey University Press). This book follows and complements How to Mend a Kea. There is nearly always at least one kiwi patient at Wildbase, there for a range of reasons from illness to accidental injury. The book tells of three very different kiwi patients and in so doing describes the perilous situation these extraordinary birds are in alongside the efforts made to halt their slide to extinction.


Hunt is available to talk to intermediate and secondary school students. She is prepared to discuss the life of Hone Tuwhare, conservation in New Zealand, and graphic and book design. She is will talk to groups of between 20-30 students. She is prepared to travel out of town for Writers in Schools visits.


Updated January 2023.