New kiwi welcomed as Queenstown's Kiwi Birdlife Park celebrates 30 years

Kiwi Birdlife Park park manager Nicole Kunzmann, general manager Paul Wilson and senior wildlife keeper Jen Clark with ...
DEBBIE JAMIESON/FAIRFAX NZ

Kiwi Birdlife Park park manager Nicole Kunzmann, general manager Paul Wilson and senior wildlife keeper Jen Clark with newly landed kiwi McMurdo who made the trip from the North Island yesterday to arrive just in time for the park's 30th anniversary celebrations.

So it turns out that kiwis can not only fly, they can also be diverted.

That was the situation six-year-old kiwi McMurdo found himself in when his flight from Wellington was diverted from Queenstown Airport on Wednesday due to low visibility at the airport.

However, a three-hour bus ride from Invercargill later along with a bit of stress for his keepers and himself, and he was safely ensconced in his new home at Queenstown's Kiwi Birdlife Park where he will be paired up with existing resident Tapui, who turned out to be a female rather than the male staff were expecting.

Queenstown's Kiwi Birdlife Park general manager Paul Wilson is the proud Dad of newly landed kiwi McMurdo who made the ...
DEBBIE JAMIESON/FAIRFAX NZ

Queenstown's Kiwi Birdlife Park general manager Paul Wilson is the proud Dad of newly landed kiwi McMurdo who made the trip from the North Island yesterday to arrive just in time for the park's 30th anniversary celebrations.

His arrival happily coincides with the park marking its 30 year anniversary.

The park was started by Invercargill-born metalsmith Dick Wilson and wife Noeleen who moved to Queenstown in the 1950s with their family and opened the first garage and shop in Frankton.

Twenty years later he noticed that customers at his garage were increasingly asking where they could see New Zealand's famous icon the kiwi.

An animal lover who was passionate about nature and native wildlife he applied to the Lake County Council to lease a piece of land used as a dumping site for old cars and rubbish on the edge of town.

He was granted the lease for the land and use of a natural spring in the early 1980s but, with son Paul, he had to remove several tonnes of rubbish, fence the area, clear 14ft-high blackberry and broom canes, build ponds and remove about 100 huge pine trees before building aviaries, the first Kiwi house and a ticket office, and planting about 10,000 native pines to replace the pines.

They sourced their first birds through the New Zealand Wildlife Service (now Department of Conservation) and officially opened for business on 13 January, 1986.

The park had one kiwi house, an enclosure for kea, a yellow-crowned kakariki aviary and a weka pen, while pukeko and ducks roamed free. 

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Now it attracts thousands of visitors every year and holds and displays with over 20 species of native wildlife as part of nationally-managed programmes. 

Its free-flight bird show was launched in October 2001 and was the first of its kind in New Zealand.

Dick and Noeleen have both since passed away but the family link continues with son Paul Wilson as general manager and wife Sandra an integral part of the park..

Its 30 year anniversary will be recognised with an event on Thursday night opened by Ngai Tahu representative Michael Skerrett and friend Willie Solomon. DOC threatened species ambassador Nicola Toki is a special guest speaker, attending on behalf of Conservation Minister Maggie Barry.

Paul Wilson said he was "extremely proud" of what his family and the park team had achieved over 30 years.

A a new reptile wing opened in December last year to house tuatara and rare endangered skinks.

Once McMurdo is settled it is expected the park will have three breeding pairs, possibly producing up to ten eggs a year.

 - Stuff

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