New Zealand’s Tāwharanui Regional Park is a wildlife sanctuary that leads the way when it comes to the integration of conservation and community.
It’s nice to be able to move around again, and I’ve certainly been taking advantage of getting my freedom back, with a few trips in the last six months. One of those was to finally get to see my sister’s new (well, new to me) home in New Zealand, and to get to know the gorgeous surrounds of Matakana, just an hour or so north east of Auckland, where she lives part-time (don’t ask, it’s complicated).
My last visit to NZ was in a national park, so my first foray out was to visit a wildlife sanctuary – Tāwharanui Regional Park – for a (slightly shorter) beach/bush walk. I was curious about the set-up of the park, and even more so when I realised that there were sheep grazing on what was clearly farmland within the park, not the usual way of things in my experience.
A dedicated wildlife sanctuary, I discovered Tāwharanui is also an ‘open integrated sanctuary’, in an area that lays claim to some of the most stunning white-sand beaches in the country.
Spread out over 588 hectares, Tāwharanui is New Zealand’s first integrated public open sanctuary, a project that was instigated in 2000 with the goal of creating an intensively managed conservation program within a regional park. This has resulted in a protected region of significant natural beauty and resource, where the conservation of natural species, recreation and farming all rub along together behind a predator-proof fence.
After this was constructed an intense program was put in place to rid the fenced area of predators. All mammalian pests, except mice, were eradicated from the region, which allowed a subsequent focus on habitat restoration to follow. The result of this was a significant growth in native reptile and bird species, and the reappearance of previously missing bird, reptile and plant species. Most significant was the successful release, in 2006-07, of 40 brown kiwi – a species that had been absent from the area for over 60 years.
All in all, 16 species have been returned or added to this wildlife sanctuary since the program commenced, and it’s now the subject of numerous research projects on the management of threatened species.
Under intensive management, the integration of conservation, recreation and farming have combined with enormous success. With significant local engagement, this wildlife sanctuary has become a best-practice example of co-operation between local government and community.
And because it is public land, visitors can camp here, surf, swim, go bushwalking or just relax amid the protected surrounds of some of the most spectacular landscapes in New Zealand.