Queenstown’s Kiwi Birdlife Park marks 35th anniversary with ‘35 for 35’ campaign

Thirty-five years of outstanding contributions to the survival of New Zealand’s unique species is under threat at Queenstown’s Kiwi Birdlife Park. 

Thirty-five years of outstanding contributions to the survival of New Zealand’s unique species is under threat at Queenstown’s Kiwi Birdlife Park.

As the park marks the milestone anniversary this year, celebrations are muted as it faces the very real possibility of closure without continued funding and financial support.

So with the Easter break and school holidays just around the corner, it’s launching a ’35 for 35’ campaign for the month of April, encouraging each visitor to donate $35 for the experience — a mere dollar for each year of wildlife conservation. 

The park has been a labour of love for the Wilson family – 35 years ago metalsmith Dick Wilson and his wife Noeleen had an unlikely ‘vision’ of building the resort town’s first birdlife and conservation park on an overgrown piece of wasteland.  

Today that same park is owned by their son Paul and his wife Sandra, and their own son Richard also works in the business.

Over the decades it’s attracted thousands of visitors every year and is recognised nationwide for its conservation success stories, taking part in a number of ‘breed-for-release’ programmes and displaying over 20 species of native wildlife. It’s also planted nearly 20,000 native trees to provide essential food and shelter to wild native birds.

Now the future is looking grim, with revenue down 80% year-to-date and funding from the Wildlife Institute Relief Fund only covering a proportion of overall costs. Those costs are incurred whether they’re open or not, with two or three keepers required on site every day to care for and feed the wildlife.

Understandably, Paul Wilson says the family is incredibly saddened by the downturn after 35 years of hard work.  

“We’re trying so many new and different ways to keep our head above water, but this is more than just about the money,” he says.

“This park has always been about wildlife survival. We’re passionate about wildlife and so are all our staff.

“We’ve developed one of the best whio breeding programmes in the country and it would be a devastating loss to the whio population if this couldn’t continue. In 2019 and 2020 we built an outstanding new Kiwi House which we’re still paying off, so we’d really love to share this amazing new exhibit with some visitors.

“We’re so proud of what we’ve built up here but this is the biggest challenge we’ve faced in 35 years and we need support more than ever. We need people to come and see one of the biggest kiwi display houses in the country, celebrate our breeding programmes in the knowledge that they’re contributing to future conservation success, and enjoy the conservation show which is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

“We know we’re loved by locals and by visitors from near and far, so everyone who visits will know their $35is going a very long way, hopefully for the next 35 years, for a very good cause.”  

KEY KIWI BIRDLIFE PARK MILESTONES:

  1. January 13 1986 opened its doors to it’s first visitors
  2. 1989 – Joins captive breed-for-release programme for critically endangered black stilts with only 23 left in the world. 
  3. 1996 – First kiwi (Koru) hatched at the park.
  4. 2001 – Conservation Show launched, first free-flight bird show in New Zealand. 
  5. 2004 – First Haast tokoeka (kiwi) chick hatched, the first time this species ever hatched in captivity.
  6. 2005- Our audio guide, a self guided audio tour, launched. 
  7. 2010 – New enclosure showcases NZ’s sub-antarctic island species. 
  8. 2012 – Joins captive breed-for-release programme for whio (blue duck)
  9. 2013- Became the first institute in NZ to be accredited with providing positive animal welfare.
  10. 2015 – New reptile wing built.
  11. 2017- celebrated the release of our 200th pateke duckling into the wild since the year 2000. 
  12. 2018 – Bush regeneration programme was intensified with the cutting down of 129 invasive pine and fir trees and the planting of 5,000 native trees.
  13. 2019- New falcon exhibit built and breed for release programme for South Island kaka started.
  14. 2020 – State-of-the-art new Kiwi House built  
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Jenni Powell joins IT services business Both Brains as GM

Well-known Queenstown general manager, Jenni Powell, has taken up a new role in the IT services industry with Both Brains. 

Well-known Queenstown general manager, Jenni Powell, has taken up a new role in the IT services industry with Both Brains.

Jenni Powell has taken the helm of IT services company Both Brains in a newly-created GM role.

Formerly general manager at VisitorPoint Ltd, and previously New Zealand Sales Manager for Southern Discoveries and the InterCity Group, Jenni has also been chair of the Backpacker Youth Adventure Tourism Association (BYATA) since 2019.

Both Brains provides services for a wide range of business from SME’s to large multinational companies, and recent expansion into the tourism sector is a natural fit for Jenni’s background and network.

“I’m stoked to join the Both Brains team as I know first-hand how essential it is to work with forward-thinking solution driven partners aiming to take the pain points away from day-to-day operations,” says Jenni.

“So many of the services Both Brains continues to offer to clients in different industries would be of immense value to tourism businesses. In the current environment it’s critical that businesses see good value for spend, the ability to scale on demand and work with partners they know they can trust to get the job done.”

Both Brains founder and managing director Ryan Howard has welcomed Jenni to the role, which is based in Queenstown.

“Jenni is known to be an extremely hard worker, very professional and always passionate about the business she is in, which are qualities we live by at Both Brains,” he says.

“We’ve seen good growth over the last few years which is why we’re investing in a GM enabling me to concentrate on the technical side of the business. Jenni’s experience in managing businesses through growth and her customer-focused approach will be a welcome addition to our team.”

Both Brains has just celebrated eight years in business and Ryan took the opportunity post-lockdown to enjoy the lifestyle Queenstown offers while running his Auckland business remotely.

“There’s massive growth in Queenstown in the tech sector. Pre covid, global connectivity was easy with an international airport on our doorstep. Investing further and bringing Jenni onboard locally is the perfect opportunity to expand our reach and a ‘no brainer’ for me,” he says.

Ryan says Jenni has first-hand knowledge of the current challenges facing the tourism industry.

“We’re hoping we have the perfect solution — world class service and easily scalable packages. Our services are used by businesses in all industries but really do lend themselves to tourism operators wanting to ensure they’re the most effective they can be with smaller workforces, and ready to rapidly scale up when international borders re-open.”

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Ziptrek Ecotours launches world’s first augmented zipline tour

Award-winning Ziptrek Ecotours in Queenstown, New Zealand, is taking its first steps in combining adventure tourism with digital storytelling. 

Award-winning Ziptrek Ecotours in Queenstown, New Zealand, is taking its first steps in combining adventure tourism with digital storytelling.  

With tourism going through massive change and upheaval, Ziptrek’s built on its reputation as a renowned leader in eco-tourism to incorporate XR (extended reality) technologies into adventure tourism.

Ziptrek perceives its focus is as a storyteller, contextualizing its place in nature and creating meaningful ‘wow’ moments of travel.

Business owner Trent Yeo says the challenge was to take the perception of XR as being one of technological immersion for many young people in particular, and refocus the technology application to one of nature interaction.

“That’s the basis on which we’ve developed our animated tour guide ‘Kerry the Kereru’, taking people out on our very real, touchable environments in our treehouses and on our ziplines with our guides, as always, but with the addition of a light digital overlay,” he says.

The new Kereru Interactive tour (known as K.I for short) features animated tour guide Kerry the Kereru voiced by local Kiwi author and singer Craig Smith, known to Kiwi kids and families everywhere as the Wonky Donkey man.

While the technology is still nascent and XR business cases still developing, Ziptrek is excited to build this experiment in human interaction. Alongside human guides, Kerry is a digital avatar that travels with guests as they’re taken back in time and through a physical forest zipline course. In keeping with the company’s environmental focus the story is about Aotearoa, the land of birds.

Trent says whether guests remember Roger Rabbit or Pokemon Go, this is Ziptrek’s ‘first step’ blended environment where digital assets are contextualized by spectacular natural surroundings.

“We look forward to the opportunities that augmented and mixed realities (XR) can create in the intersection with a real-life tourism experience,” he says.

The project team has been working for about 18 months, with the release delayed by Covid.  Alongside Ziptrek, its technology partner Plattar worked tirelessly to bring this to market when many businesses were contracting R&D investment.

Plattar founder Rupert Deans says the platform enables leading tourism operators like Ziptrek to move beyond traditional tourism delivery by unlocking the power of 3D and augmented reality, creating unique and shareable moments for guests.

“The tourism space is one of the most exciting expressions of this technology. We’re excited to work with Trent and Ziptrek on this pilot and look forward to building further on this,” he says.

The innovative Kereru Interactive will feature the exciting 21m ‘Kereru Drop’ after guests travel along two ziplines. For those who prefer not to do ‘the drop’ and are a bit more marginal than a Kereru at flying, there’s an alternative option to return via a small exit zipline.

The tour officially launches this month with booking available from Monday March 29. The K.I. product will take an hour and is available at an introductory price of $89, available for the first month for direct bookings via the website and in store before extending to its trade partners.

Social media handles are #kereruinteractive, #ki, #ziptreknz  #ziplinesnz  

Check out the details on the K.I promotional video here 

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Young Landscaper of the Year and national awards medal bonanza for Southern Landmarx

Queenstown landscaping company Southern Landmarx had a glittering night at the Landscapes of Distinction Awards in Christchurch over the weekend.

Queenstown landscaping company Southern Landmarx had a glittering night at the Landscapes of Distinction Awards in Christchurch over the weekend.

Not only did they bring home an outstanding three gold and three silver medals for two Cromwell-based landscape projects, but their Operations Manager Tama Ritter won New Zealand Young Landscaper of the Year.

Southern Landmarx directors Jaye and Joe Nutting paid tribute to the “hard work and determination” shown by Tama in winning the national title.

“We’re all extremely proud of him after he came to us seven years ago knowing nothing about landscaping, but he’s worked his way up from an apprentice to the top,” said Jaye.

Tama, 28, said he had found his day of practical tests, a speech and interviews, up against 12 other competitors, “a bit nerve wracking and daunting.”

He won two Outstanding Achievement awards in Career Development and Communications before he was named the overall winner at the gala dinner presentation.

“It was such a surprise to hear my name being called out and it still hasn’t really sunk in, to be honest,” he said. “But I see it as confirmation of how far I have come in the industry, and it’s the cherry on top of all the hard work over the years.

“I love landscaping because it isn’t just one skillset, it’s such a wide variety of work. Each project has new and interesting challenges.

“You take a ‘blank’ landscape around some awesome houses and then the visual aspect of what we add is huge. It’s like dressing the house so it’s shown off to its full advantage, maximising the landscape and its surrounds.”

Southern Landmarx faced stiff competition from a record number of entries from all around New Zealand for the landscape awards.

The company won an impressive two gold medals in landscape construction and landscape horticulture for its Clutha River Views entry, as well as a silver for design. It also won a gold medal in landscape construction for its Dunstan Vista residence along with two silvers for design and horticulture.

Jaye and Joe said it was a “fantastic acknowledgement” of the hard work that had gone into the two properties by their 16-strong team.

“We also want to acknowledge the vision and dedication of the owners and their collaborative approach which has enabled us to do so well across these three key residential landscape categories,” said managing director Joe.

“We’re thrilled to win these awards which recognise and celebrate the high-quality design and construction of our work, and our ability to use plants that have been locally raised and ‘hardened off’ in our Cromwell-based Burn Cottage Nursery.”

Joe said the Clutha River Views project was a “particularly inspiring” garden to work on due to the owners’ desire to incorporate an historical element into a new build, integrating elements of their past home to which they had an emotional attachment following the Christchurch earthquakes.

The Dunstan Vista project was inspired by family, meeting not only the needs of the clients but their grandchildren. For that reason it incorporated an expansive lawn for the children to play, a pool area for the heat of summer and a unique, peaceful seating area away from the main home where the owners could relax while soaking up the views.

For more information about Southern Landmarx go to www.slx.co.nz

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