Eco-tourism prospects in Bluff Hill fence plan

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 27/06/2014
trap
NICOLE GOURLEY/ Fairfax NZ
PREDATOR PROOFING: Bluff Hill/Motupohue Environment trustees, from left, Libby Furr, Norm Irwin and volunteer Lindsay McLean check a mustelid trap near Stirling Point.

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A predator fence planned for Bluff could transform the town into an eco-tourism hot spot.

The Bluff Hill/Motupohue Environment Trust is hoping to build a predator fence through Bluff Hill bush to expand the trust's efforts to eradicate pests in the area.

The trust relies on volunteers to trap possums and rats, allowing native birds and fauna to flourish on the hill, but a predator fence could cut out introduced pests all together.

Trust chairwoman Estelle Leask said the fence would provide more than just ecological benefits for Bluff. The eco-sanctuary created by the fence would be a drawcard for tourists and educational groups, transforming the brand of Bluff, Leask said. "It's always been called an industry town, but with a little gem like what we've got in that native bush, we can be more than that."

The sanctuary could be expanded with a visitor centre, including a souvenir shop and cafe, guided tours, kiwi-spotting and further educational opportunities, Leask said.

"The sky's the limit. Our trust, we dream big and we're really keen to get this plan happening."

Once the fence was constructed, birds like takahe, kakariki parakeets and kiwi, as well as native reptiles, could be re-introduced to the area, Leask said.

The trust was looking to the Orokonui eco-sanctuary, near Dunedin, and the Dancing Star Foundation Ecological Preserve on Stewart Island for strategies and fence ideas.

While still in the research stage, the fence would probably be about three kilometres long, running from coast to coast, and could cost more than a $1 million, she said.

However, this was "a drop in the bucket" compared with what the fence could provide for the town, she said.

Trustee Libby Furr said a predator fence would make the trust's work more sustainable.

Although the trust had greatly reduced the number of pests in the bush, keeping the area free of possums and rats without a fence required a constant effort.

It was hard work for the volunteers, as each trap run took between two and four hours to complete, she said.

Bluff Community Board chairman Raymond Fife said the work the environment trust did already was attracting more people to Bluff Hill's walking tracks.

A predator fence would make it much easier for the volunteers, who had to cover a large area, to restore the bush, he said.

Bluff Promotions officer Lindsay Beer said a fence would increase tourism in the town, and the project was something local authorities should get behind.

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