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Source: New Zealand Government

The Provincial Growth Fund has invested $2.5 million to expand and develop the Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre in the lower North Island, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says.

The Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre at Mt Bruce will use the funding to upgrade and expand its sanctuary.

“Pūkaha has cemented itself as a successful wildlife centre and captive breeding facility, with almost 1000ha of native forest which has been returned to Rangitāne o Tararua and Rangitāne o Wairarapa. Iwi intend to gift the land to New Zealanders so it is important we invest in protecting and upgrading this incredible asset,” Shane Jones said.

“This sacred taonga on the border of Wairarapa and Tararua Districts is home to endangered wildlife species such as kiwi, takahē, kōkako, kākā and longfin eels.

“The Provincial Growth Fund investment will pay for training and education facilities, accommodation and a nocturnal boardwalk. Early consultation has shown significant interest in hands-on environmental education and this development allows the centre to expand its education programme. The Department of Conservation and iwi are closely involved in shaping this development.

“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.”

Local firms will be used during construction, and the project is looking at a training programme to upskill local rangatahi in predator control and conservation techniques.

PGF investment will also fund a team of local kai whakairo (carvers) to create traditional displays for the new whare wānanga (education centre). Carving is expected to start in about a month.

“The Pūkaha Wildlife Ecology Programme joins the list of more than 60 PGF-funded projects able to start work under 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,” Shane Jones said.