Major Development To Start At Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre
Pūkaha has successfully secured funding from the Government's Provincial Growth Fund (PGF). It sends a bold message about the future of the National Wildlife Centre, as PGF investment will pay a significant role in the economic reovery of the Tararua and Wairarapa regions. The Pūkaha Board, along with its partners Rangitāne and Te Papa Atawhai - the Deparment of Conservation welcomed the news.
The $2.5m Government funding means that work can start immediately on the $4.5m project, the largest ever development programme at the National Wildlife Centre. It will involve the construction of a 40 bed Accommodation and Education centre to host school and community groups and vocational training programmes. It will also help fund; a new Nocturnal Boardwalk to enable visitors to experience the forest at night; a Carving Whare to host traditional carving workshops by Rangitāne whakairo; and up to 10 motorhome sites.
The developments will be completed within 18 months and will extend visitor access and use of the Reserve by nearly 50% with overnight stays, nocturnal and dawn guided tours and an extended Environment and Ecology Education programme that will be developed in conjunction with schools and tertiary education providers.
The Pūkaha Board’s decision to proceed with the development follows extensive research and feasibility testing which showed strong support with schools from Hawkes Bay to Wellington and across to Whanganui. All schools interviewed wanted overnight accommodation and extended environment and ecology education programmes to complement classroom work and included cultural history and Māutauranga Māori perspectives. The research also showed a strong contribution to regional economies through increased visitors over a five year period.
Pūkaha Board Chair Bob Francis is delighted that Government has got in behind this major development. “We have enormous confidence in our future as we work through this difficult period in our history.” says Bob. “As well as making Pūkaha more financially sustainable, it is a positive development for both Tararua and Wairarapa, with job creation, economic stimulus, and more reasons for domestic travellers to explore this beautiful part of New Zealand. It will make a real difference.”
The contribution the developments will make to education has also not gone unnoticed. Martin O'Grady, Principal of Rathkeale College said “I know I speak on behalf of all Kura in the Wairarapa about the exciting news of the establishment of an Environment and Ecology Wānanga at Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre. At Rathkeale there is a definite appetite for education outside the classroom and I feel this facility will support the programmes we currently offer with a particular focus on Māutauranga Māori in our Biology, Environmental and Primary Industry courses.”
The timing of the development is special for another very important reason. Earlier this year Pūkaha was formally returned to Rangitāne as part of their Treaty Settlement. Rangitāne in turn have undertaken to gift the Reserve to the Crown for the sole use as a National Wildlife Centre. When this gifting ceremony takes place in 2021, the new Education and Accommodation Wānanga will be nearing completion; a timely and fitting tribute to the generous gift of Rangitāne to the people of the region and Aotearoa.
Rangitāne has been involved with planning the developments. Input by Rangitāne Kaumatua Mike Kawana and Manahi Paewai has been essential to ensure that the new facilities align closely with the aspirations of Rangitāne to re-establish the links made long ago by Rangitāne tipuna with this taonga ngahere. “This space will create opportunities for everyone to experience Te Ao Māori through the culture and traditions of Rangitāne,” says Mike Kawana.
Balancing conservation and commercial priorities is a daily challenge for Pūkaha but with a clear direction set by the Board, the National Wildlife Centre is well positioned to make the right decisions, for the Pūkaha team, wider community, mana whenua and the wildlife. As General Manager, Emily Court explains, “we have come a long way in the last two years and now it is time for some ‘game changing’ developments that will build on all of the work of our predecessors. The Wānanga is that opportunity and the timing couldn’t be better for Pūkaha and for the regions.” she says.
Pūkaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre, known for many years as Mount Bruce, has been an important contributor to conservation efforts in Aotearoa, breeding endangered birds since the 1950s and bringing them back from the brink of extinction. The 942ha native forest is located on the border of Tararua and Wairarapa Regions and is the last remnant of Te Tapere Nui o Whātonga (70 mile bush). Significant investment each year in predator control and forest restoration, has resulted in thriving native wildlife populations returning to the forest, including threatened species such as Kākā, North Island Kōkako and Kiwi. In 2019 over 40,000 people visited the Centre.
Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre is managed by the Pūkaha Mount Bruce board in partnership with Rangitāne o Wairarapa and Rangitāne o Tamkinui a rua and the Department of Conservation. Pūkaha aims to educate and inspire the general public about conservation and New Zealand wildlife through their Visitor Centre, daily talks and educational programmes. Pūkaha also works with whio (blue duck), pāteke (brown teal), and kākāriki.