The Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre at Mt Bruce will upgrade and expand its sanctuary after securing $2.5m from the Provincial Growth Fund.
The funding meant work could start immediately on a $4.5m development project that involved the construction of a 40-bed accommodation and education centre to host school and community groups, and vocational training programmes.
It would also help fund a new Nocturnal Boardwalk to enable visitors to experience the forest at night, a Carving Whare to host traditional carving workshops by Rangitāne whakairo, and up to 10 motorhome sites.
The developments would be completed within 18 months and was expected to extend visitor access and use of the reserve by nearly 50% with overnight stays, nocturnal and dawn guided tours and an extended environment and ecology education programme. The education programme would be developed in conjunction with schools and tertiary education providers.
The Pūkaha board said the investment sends a “bold message” about the future of the centre, as PGF investment would play a significant role in the economic recovery of the Tararua and Wairarapa regions.
“We have enormous confidence in our future as we work through this difficult period in our history,” said Pūkaha board chair Bob Francis.
“As well as making Pūkaha more financially sustainable, it is a positive development for both Tararua and Wairarapa, with job creation, economic stimulus, and more reasons for domestic travellers to explore this beautiful part of New Zealand. It will make a real difference.”
Regional economic development minister Shane Jones said the Pūkaha Wildlife Ecology Programme joined a list of more than 60 PGF-funded projects able to start work under alert level 3.
“It’s now even more essential we invest in regional economies which will play an essential part in the national recovery of Covid-19,” he said.
“As our regions begin to recover from the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important they are supported by the Government. This investment will help boost the local economy, create jobs and improve an asset that attracts thousands of visitors each year. Domestic tourism will become even more important as we wait for international tourism to recover over the next few years.”
Pūkaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre comprises 942ha native forest, located on the border of the Tararua and Wairarapa regions. It is home to endangered wildlife species such as kiwi, takahē, kōkako, kākā and longfin eels. More than 40,000 people visited the centre in 2019.
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