Sunday, 10 December 2006

Blueskin Media release: Fwd: Orokonui Ecosanctuary

Orokonui Ecosanctuary takes its first giant step

(by Orokonui Ecosanctuary)

With work already underway on the construction of a specialised pest-exclusion fence, the Orokonui Ecosanctuary has taken its first significant step towards becoming a reality.

In the Orokonui Valley, 20 kilometres to the north of Dunedin's Octagon, a fence-building team has set up camp and has begun the 5-month long process of enclosing the valley with 7.2 kilometres of mammal-proof fencing. The fence, which features fine stainless steel mesh and stands at around 1.9 metres tall, will enclose 250 hectares of regenerating forest at Orokonui.
Ralph Allen, Chairman of the Otago Natural History Trust, said that the Trust is very pleased to be using the expertise of the Xcluder Pest Proof Fencing Company, a Waikato company that has eight years' experience in building exclusion fences. The fence design has been developed and tested to exclude pest animals such as mice, rats, stoats, weasels, ferrets, cats and possums.
"Once the fence is complete we will remove all of these animals from the valley and create a place that is safe for the return of the native birds, reptiles and bats that belong in our coastal forests" said Dr Allen.
The Ecosanctuary will recreate Dunedin's lost natural heritage and become an important part of the ecotourism experience in Dunedin, complementing the city's marine wildlife attractions. It will also offer wonderful opportunities for education, recreation and research.
Funding for the fence, which will cost the Trust $1.74 million, has come from three main sources: the Southern Trust, the Community Trust of Otago and the Lottery Grants Board, with a number of smaller donations making up the total. Members of the public have also been doing their bit by "buying" fenceposts. A donation of $100 entitles an individual or family to a named stainless steel plaque on one of the 1600 fenceposts that will enclose the valley. Nearly 400 fenceposts have already been spoken for, leaving another 1200 that the Trust is keen to "sell."

Dr Allen paid tribute to the fundraising team that has spent the past year assisting the Trust with their fundraising campaign.

 "Malcolm Farry and his team have done a great job. With $2.8 million raised to date we have had wonderful support from the community" said Dr Allen. "With this funding in place we can build the fence and meet many of the other costs associated with restoring the forest flora and fauna at Orokonui and with developing visitor facilities."

Dr Allen made particular mention of the Otago Regional Council, which has pledged $1million for ecosanctuary development over the coming four years.   

However, the full costs of sanctuary development are $4.6 million, making an ongoing programme of fundraising essential to the Ecosanctuary's success. Funding is still required for pest eradication, a visitor centre, tracks, aviaries and other restoration costs.

"The Trust is very grateful to all those who have already given financial and other support to the ecosanctuary cause" said Dr Allen, "But we are not there yet, and we are very keen to encourage further sponsorships and donations"


Pest eradication will take place once the fence is complete in 2007 and it is hoped that the Ecosanctuary will be officially opened in 2008. It is anticipated that the Ecosanctuary will attract more than 25,000 visitors a year and will become economically self- sustaining.
"However, financial self-reliance will not be achieved immediately," said Dr Allen. "Neither will restoration of the forest and the return of our lost species happen overnight. We will need the patience and ongoing support of Dunedin people to create this special place. But the start of fence construction is a major step along the way."  

For more informatio contact: Diane Campbell-Hunt Trust Secretary (03) 477 5160 or 021 182 4301

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