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$4m project for Pukaha

Concept designs for education facility at Pukaha National Wildlife Centre. IMAGE/SUPPLIED

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Overnight stays and nocturnal guided tours are on the cards for Pukaha National Wildlife Centre as it sets sights on launching a multimillion dollar education and conservation project.

It is budgeting $4 million to build an educational facility that includes accommodation.

General manager Emily Court said it could be up and running towards the end of term four next year.

“It’s a hugely exciting time for Pukaha,” Court said.

“We are really focused on developing conservation and education aspects and becoming a key tourism stop.

“This makes an enormous amount of sense and we are going for it.”

Board Chairman Bob Francis said the programme would take Pukaha to “a whole new level” and connect more people with conservation.

The programme will incorporate matauranga Maori principles, hands-on and science-informed, and the centre intends to do more biodiversity research, and help increase awareness of climate change issues.

“The programme will enable youth education to become a major focus ensuring the protection of our flora, fauna and cultural traditions for future generations,” Francis said.

Silverwood Architects has completed the concept plans and Rangitane carvers are prepared and ready to start on five key ‘Pou’ that will be integral to the wananga facility.

These will welcome all manuhiri [visitors] and represent the significant Atua [gods] of the forest ‘Te Tapere Nui o Whatonga’ [The Great Domain of Whatonga].

The development has overnight accommodation for 40 people, for use by schools, community groups, iwi, and private groups.

It includes motorhome sites and related facilities.

“There is absolutely demand now, but it is not a campground experience we will offer, [rather] a conservation experience with guided night walks and then an ability to park up and stay the night.

“School students staying overnight is key to us building real, in-depth education and experience of the forest at night, which is active and interesting.”

The centre has applied for money from the government’s Provincial Growth Fund.

The build would be funded by both private and public money.

Trust House has agreed to give $100,000 to the development.

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