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August 2012 Issue
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Five hundred year vision

Zealandia in Wellington has a 500 year plan to regenerate the environment back to how it was 500 years ago. However, funding has become a big issues recently as the reserve has been running at a loss and Wellington City Council have considered merging the sanctuary with the city zoo. Visitor number recently have improved so perhaps it can meet its goal.

Zealandia (Karori Sanctuary) has a 500-year vision to restore a 225ha valley to a pre-human state. However, recently it’s been the subject of a difficult funding battle with Wellington City Council (WCC).

Two years ago, Zealandia’s new museum and café complex, backed by a $10 million WCC loan, opened to the public and, although visitation increased by 42 per cent, it failed to meet ambitious visitor targets as quickly as expected. The Sanctuary needs $700,000 for each of the next three years in order to survive.

WCC had tabled a risky alternative, dubbed ‘Eco-City’, that would have combined Zealandia with Wellington Zoo, Otari Wilton’s Bush and the Botanic Garden; an unlikely fit for the fenced ‘mainland island’ that’s one of New Zealand’s leading conservation organisations.

Home to wild populations of tuatara, little spotted kiwi and saddleback, Zealandia’s accessibility makes it popular with education groups and international visitors as well as over 450 local volunteers. Its public esteem saw objections to WCC’s plan from many quarters, including Forest and Bird. The council has backed down and now proposes a governance review, a new interim board and a partnership providing back office support. Zealandia has helped return the call of kaka to the city, but only its independence and autonomy will ensure its 500-year vision is protected.

– Fraser Crichton