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.”  


  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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Snowfalls the ‘icing on the cake’ for Routeburn Classic Adventure Run  

A dusting of snow was the icing on the cake for the 250-plus keen mountain runners who competed in this year’s Routeburn Classic Adventure Run on Saturday.

A dusting of snow was the icing on the cake for the 250-plus keen mountain runners who competed in this year’s Routeburn Classic Adventure Run on Saturday.

Celebrating its 20th year, the event sees athletes run the stunning 32km Fiordland National Park track in one day. Runners were itching to get out there after the three previous events were cancelled due to weather and the 2020 floods that washed out the Milford Road and tracks.

Ten keen Australians who booked to compete late last year when registration opened, keeping fingers crossed they’d be able to travel, made it over by the skin of their teeth thanks to the trans-Tasman bubble.

Queenstown’s Sarah Douglas made it a double when she backed up her win in 2014 with a placing at the top of the women’s field. Back in 2014 she set a new women’s record of 3hrs 16 min 48 sec, but yesterday’s wet and slippery conditions (and the fact she competed only last weekend in the gruelling Mountain Running Championships at Coronet Peak) saw her post an extremely respectable 3hr 26min 14sec.

Douglas was a full ten minutes ahead of second placegetter Dahna Hunter (3:36:15) and Maureen Stachowicz in third (3:45:05).

“That was pretty tough,” said Douglas. “I was a bit hesitant during the week about recovering from the running champs and being confident to take on the Routeburn, but by Thursday I was starting to feel pretty good, any tightness had disappeared.

“We were so lucky to get a gap in the weather and it was worth the wait after it’s been cancelled so many times. If it went ahead I knew it was going to be epic, and it was. It was quite slippery underfoot but you deal with the conditions you get on the day.”

Craig Fowler of North Vancouver (originally from the Bay of Plenty) crossed the finish line in 2:52:01 to take top male honours with Martin McCrudden from Wellington just over seven minutes behind in 2:59:15 and Queenstown’s Hywel Dinnick third in 3:01:33.

Fowler, a structural engineer who has been living and working in Canada for three years with wife Genevieve, is in New Zealand on a family visit to introduce six-month-old son Hugo.

After starting running as a youngster to conquer ashma, Fowler has mapped his trip around New Zealand to compete in running events, lining up next for The Nugget multisport event at Waihi Beach on May 8.

“That run was pretty satisfying,” said Fowler minutes after crossing the line. “There was a bit of a spread at the top so I didn’t actually see anyone after the Mackenzie Hut.It’s pretty special to be even doing an event because in Canada we’ve been in lockdown for a year-and-a-half so just to be on a bus with a couple of hundred people and compete was amazing.

“I’ve never been on the track before so that was a huge bonus. It was beautiful.”

The Routeburn Classic ‘adventure run’ usually attracts athletes from all around the world, but organiser Evan McWhirter of Good Times Events said he was grateful this year to get another event under his belt with a token number of Australian visitors.

“It’s amazing to break the drought after three years of cancelled events, and while we knew everyone was going to get a bit wet, we had concerns right up until the morning about potential snow and wind,” he said. “Everyone was so amped and the energy at the start was massive when we knew we could race.

“The fastest and the slowest runners missed the snow at the top of the Harris Saddle, but for the majority of runners they had a magical experience with lightly drifting soft snow falling around them.”

The theme for this year’s event was 80’s athletics gear, one that was proudly embraced by race organisers and many runners.

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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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