Hawke's Bay is now home to some of the 260 tuatara which were relocated from the South Island to various parts of the country as part of a programme by the Department of Conservation (DoC).
Air New Zealand and DoC achieved the largest and most complex tuatara relocation project, moving the reptiles on commercial flights from Wellington to Gisborne, Hamilton and Dunedin on Tuesday.
The tuatara travelled by helicopter from Takapourewa (Stephens Island) in the Marlborough Sounds to Wellington Airport, where they were handed over to the care of Air New Zealand cabin crew and accompanying DoC staff.
The tuatara travelled inside the cabin alongside passengers, though each was housed in its own travelling tube, complete with Air New Zealand baggage tag.
Air New Zealand chief executive officer Rob Fyfe was on hand to receive the precious passengers and help get them aboard the aircraft.
Air New Zealand and DoC worked together on about 200 species translocations around New Zealand each year.
Tuatara were not jet-setters by nature as they didn't generally travel more than about 20 metres from their burrows during the entire course of their lives.
Takapourewa, where the reptiles came from, is predator-free and home to 30,000 tuatara, or half of the country's population. This week's transfer operation had successfully reintroduced tuatara into parts of the country where their ancestors lived before predation and habitat loss.
The tuatara were accompanied by Ngati Koata iwi as the kaitiaki (guardians) of the taonga (treasure) and delivered to Kati Huirapa in Dunedin for Orokonui Ecosanctuary, and in Gisborne to Ngati Porou for Whangaokeno Island. Other groups of tuatara went to Cape Sanctuary in Hawke's Bay, Young Nicks Head Sanctuary near Gisborne and Maungatautari in Central Waikato.
The 60 tuatara relocated to Orokonui mark the first return of the species to the wild in the South Island. This is by far the furthest south that tuatara have been free to roam in 100 years.