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

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.

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 more than 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 per cent 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 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 $35 is going a very long way, hopefully for the next 35 years, for a very good cause.”

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