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Recreating a Lost World in Dunedin

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Recreating a Lost World in Dunedin

Thanks to a new 250 hectare ecosanctuary being developed at Orokonui, just north of Dunedin, native flora and fauna will be returning, confirming the city as the wildlife and eco tourism capital of New Zealand.

Kiwi, Tuatara, Saddleback, Kaka, Kakariki (NZ Parakeets), Native Bats along with many more species will now thrive again in a pest-free native forest habitat

The Otago Natural History Trust today embarks on a national fund-raising exercise in order to raise the more than $4 million required to establish the ecosanctuary as a world-class facility.

A group of Dunedin business leaders, headed by Malcolm Farry has undertaken a fundraising campaign which aims to raise $1.6 million to build a specialised pest-proof fence 7.5km long around the 250 hectare Orokonui site and a further $2.5 million for an access road, tracks and a multi purpose visitor centre.

The Trust’s new logo, designed and donated by Dunedin’s Creative Advertising Ltd and a DVD narrated by Sam Neill and Rima Te Wiata and produced by Natural History NZ are being launched today to assist the promotion and fundraising of the project.

The ecosanctuary will provide a wonderful tourist attraction for New Zealanders and overseas visitors, a valuable educational resource, as well as a beautiful and peaceful place for exploration, recreation and relaxation. It will also be an important research site for the University of Otago, Crown Research Institutes, the Otago Museum and other local scientists.

It is anticipated that the sanctuary will attract around 25,000 visitors a year and will become economically self- sustaining.

The Orokonui Valley is currently a mix of conservation land and Trust land, comprising 250 hectares of healthy regenerating bush.

The Valley faces north over beautiful Blueskin Bay. In the 1840s, more than 30 species of native land birds lived around Dunedin and much of the area was clad in dense rainforest with well over 500 species of flowering plants and ferns.

By the early 20th century only five native bird species were common. 45 species of flowering plants had disappeared from the Town belt alone with only 39 of 53 original fern species left.

Fundraising group leader Malcolm Farry said the first stage in the ecosanctuary’s development was to build the special exclusion fence around the valley to keep out all mammals, such as possums, rats and stoats that destroy native flora and fauna. Then an eradication programme would rid the ecosanctuary of all introduced mammalian pests to improve the health of the forest ecosystem and provide safety for vulnerable native fauna.

“Over time, through careful management and the reintroduction of lost species, the Orokonui Valley will become an example of the rich and diverse native forests that were once plentiful in coastal Otago,” said Mr Farry.

The establishment of this ecosanctuary will recreate Dunedin’s lost natural heritage and become an important part of the ecotourism experience in Dunedin.

He added that Orokonui will complement the marine wildlife attractions in the Dunedin area.

Mr Farry said the Trust was in regular contact with the local iwi who were very supportive of plans to develop the ecological sanctuary. “They have given it the name Te Korowai o Mihiwaka which means ‘the treasured cloak of Mihiwaka’ (the mountain rising behind Orokonui),” Mr Farry said it was pleasing to have the support of DOC for the trust’s use of the land.

Mr Farry said how encouraged he was at early responses to this project and that there is a range of sponsorship opportunities for corporates, organisations and individuals to become involved with this significant and rewarding project.

It is anticipated that the sanctuary will be open to the public by 2007.

A website www.orokonui.org.nz will also be launched on 2 November.

ENDS

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