The New Zealand Speleological Society (NZSS) is the national body for recreational caving in New Zealand. We promote the sport of caving, the exploration of caves, and the conservation of caves and the landscapes they reside in.


The membership is mainly made up of members of affiliated local clubs. The NZSS also operates the NZ Cave Search and Rescue system on behalf of LandSAR and SAR NZ. NZSS is a proud member of the International Union of Speleology and welcomes contact from international cavers. Click here to visit the UIS website.

We publish a biannual journal, the NZ Speleological Bulletin,  which includes articles on new cave discoveries, karst science, cave fauna, karst hydrology, and other articles of caving interest.

We publish a quarterly newsletter, the Tomo Times, which includes the latest caving news and breakthroughs, NZSS news and events, expedition reports, and caving tips and techniques.

We provide specialist training in caving and Search and Rescue techniques.

We can provide grants for speleological research and caving related activities.

We operate and sponsor expeditions to discover and study new caves and cave passages.

We encourage cavers from different areas to meet and cave together.

We advocate to landowners and the government on matters concerning the conservation of caves and cave landforms (karst, coastal or lava).

We maintain a library of caving related literature and information at the Waitomo Museum of Caves.


On 1 October 1949, the Society came into existence by proclamation of its only member, Mr Henry G Lambert, who was President,Secretary, Treasurer, and Editor of the NZSS Bulletin.  During the following months Henry Lambert recruited more members, and despite its unusual formation, the Society steadily grew from its base in Auckland.  

At that time very little was known about caves in New Zealand.  Information was gleaned from Borough Councils, Museums, university geologists, Geological Survey,landowners,  and private individuals.  The Society was set up to collate this information and make it available to other cavers, to stimulate further exploration.  


In the early days activities were limited to the Auckland and Waikato regions.  Before long a strong core of active cavers developed in the Waikato, particularly at Hamilton and Waitomo.  During the 1960s caving groups were formed in Wellington, Nelson, and Christchurch, and these became affiliated to the Society, gradually extending its influence across the country. Membership increased steadily, now averaging around 350 members.    


Nowadays, most caving activity is based on Waitomo, Mahoenui (north Taranaki), north-west Nelson, and Buller. The Society's structure reflects is broad geographical base.

Modern cave exploration in New Zealand developed in the 1970s with the discovery of Greenlink Cave at Tākaka Hill, followed by exploration in the1980s of the Nettlebed system under Mount Arthur, and then New Zealand's longest cave, Bulmer Cavern on Mt Owen was discovered, and is still being explored today. In the 1990s Mt Arthur saw a lot of action with the Ellis Basin Cave System being the focus of activity. In 2011 Stormy Pot was discovered and after much hard work it was connected with Nettlebed in 2014.

More recently there have been many extensions, connections, and new discoveries, but these four caves remain the longest in New Zealand.


The Society is administered by a “Council” which meets four times a year, consisting of the President, Secretary, Business Manager, and six other officers with special responsibilities. These are the:

- Search and Rescue Coordinator
- Conservation & Research Coordinator
- Training Coordinator
- Safety Coordinator
- Membership Coordinator
- Information and Publications Coordinator

Role descriptions for all council officers are laid out in the NZSS Handbook.
You can contact council officers via the Contact Page.

The Council has the power to appoint persons from the Society's membership to serve as Society officers outside of Council. The officers appointed usually include the North Island and South Island Maps Officers, Tomo Times editor, Bulletin editor, and webmaster. Council members may hold these positions.

Any member of the Society may attend a Council meeting, and has speaking rights but not voting rights.


The Society's Annual General Meeting is held on the Saturday of Labour Weekend in October and is followed by the photographic and survey competitions and a semi-formal dinner. The AGM is hosted by a different group each year, usually in a location suitable for caving. A full weekend's programme of varied activities, including caving trips, is organised by the host group.


Nominations for Council officers are called for prior to the AGM. If more than one nomination is received for a position, or the incumbent officer wishes to stand again and another one or more nominations are received for that position, a vote will be held. All members will be advised if a vote is to be held. For full details of the nomination and voting process refer to the constitution Clause 11.





Mission Statement

To be the national speleological body for New Zealand, assist in the conservation of caves and karst, and to represent the interests of its members.

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