| 3 TOURISM Kiwi Birdlife Park Unique attraction celebrates milestone T T Richard Loader Last year the Kiwi Birdlife Park built its new Kiwi exhibit, which opened just before lockdown. N estled just below the Skyline Gondola in Queenstown, one of the country’s best-kept secrets is celebrating its thir- ty-fifth anniversary being open to the public with a birthday wish for more visitors to share its little slice of paradise. Kiwi Birdlife Park is a 3.2 hectare wildlife park right in the heart of Queenstown. Once the resting place of rusting cars and abandoned washing machines, close to 20,000 native trees have been planted over the last thirty-five years and the park is now actively involved in managed conservation programmes for about twenty native species of birds and reptiles. “Visitors get to experience some amazing New Zealand wildlife and at the same time see our conservation work in action,” says Park General Manager Paul Kavanagh. “Simply by coming in to support us they will be helping us to do that work. “We want visitors to experience some of our native taonga — some of our incredible species in quite a natural setting. “We 100% guarantee all visitors will get to see Kiwi in our specially designed nocturnal houses.” This year also marks the 20th anniversary of Kiwi Birdlife Park’s free-flight bird show, New Zealand first ever free-flight bird show. “One of the big things about conservation is that we need to engage and get all facets of the community interested in conservation because New Zealand does have some lofty targets like predator free by 2050. “ To achieve those goals we need to bring everyone along on the journey to get excited about conserving our native wildlife.” Last year the park built its new Kiwi exhibit, which opened just before lockdown. “The exhibit was the biggest development in park history and now we just need to get visitors through to share it,” says Paul. Prior to Covid, 50,000 visitors, mainly inter- national, visited the park each year; their entry fees a solid contribution to conservation. “Up until Covid we never had to ask for a cent in Government funding but over the last financial year we tracked an 80% drop in revenue. “Fortunately we did get support from the Department of Conservation, which has helped us to survive through this year. “In our 35 years we haven’t had to do too much marketing and we’ve always been able to put money back into our conservation effort. “But now we need to get our name out there so more people know about what we’re doing,” says Paul. “Even many long term locals don’t realise how much the park has developed over 35 years.” Paul says over the last 12 months he and his team have been humbled by the support received both locally and nationally. “New Zealand visitors have been amazing in helping us get though the difficult period. So we’re hoping that soon we will be able to thrive rather than just survive. “We’ve been trying to put the foundations in place for when the international tourists do come back, so there is much more awareness about our park and what we do in regard to conservation. “With the trans-Tasman bubble now open it just seems we’re moving in the right direction and that there is hope for the park.” Sheehan Apiaries Ltd 217 Feredays Road, RD 3, Leeston 7683 Suppliers of many natural varieties of honey.