Trust buys visitor centre

VIV POSSELT
Last updated 09:59 04/07/2012
GREAT BUY: Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust general manager, Malcolm Anderson, sees the purchase of this million-dollar property bordering the maunga as a
JEREMY SMITH

GREAT BUY: Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust general manager, Malcolm Anderson, sees the purchase of this million-dollar property bordering the maunga as a "fantastic opportunity" for the trust.

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The Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust (MEIT) has taken a giant step forward in its planning process with the timely acquisition of a million-dollar 8.2 hectare property bordering the maunga.

The property – comprising a near-new open plan house and existing outbuildings at the top of Tari Rd in Pukeatua – was purchased in a joint venture involving six major funders. Led by Waikato philanthropic trust, the DV Bryant Trust, the group also includes the Lion Foundation, Brian Perry Charitable Trust, Longview Trust Board, Taumatawiwi Trust, and the Waipa District Council.

The DV Bryant Trust makes grants to not-for-profit charities in the Waikato, primarily to enhance human welfare. It made a grant to MEIT several years ago to assist in establishing a now-successful education programme.

The house will be converted into the new Maungatautari Visitor Centre, expected to be fully operational by the end of the year and offer visitors a multi-faceted experience of the island reserve.

Trust general manager, Malcolm Anderson, said: "The 8.2 hectare property offers a fantastic opportunity for the trust to implement its future vision. Purchasing this property debt free allows us to focus on developing experiences on the maunga."

He said the public debut for what would become the Maungatautari Visitor Centre would be as a staging post for the visit of Sirocco – the spokesbird for Kakapo Recovery, a critically endangered species. Sirocco is one of only 126 kakapo left in the world. The Department Of Conservation is bringing him to the Waikato for a six-week assignment on Maungatautari. Bookings for that visit, starting on August 18, are already open.

Mr Anderson said the trust relied on the generosity and dedication of many people to help it achieve its aim. "The family of funders, pro-bono involvement by other professionals, and the dedicated work of volunteers and staff help make Maungatautari a must-see attraction."

DV Bryant Trust chairman, Doug Arcus, said the total amount raised by the six major funders exceeded $1 million, thereby enabling the proposed visitor centre to open debt free.

He said the purchase of the property also resolved several other issues. As part of a concurrent subdivision, Waipa District Council will widen the top of Tari Rd to allow for buses to turn.

The council will also gain access via a local purposes reserve to the adjacent pest proof fence-protected wetlands, which are the home of takahe, and the intended enclosure for tuatara.

"In buying this property, we funders have confidence in the project and hope that other funders will follow our lead and provide further support."

Mr Arcus said MEIT had shown itself to be resilient and successful but had also faced considerable challenges.

"There may still be some issues to be resolved but the project is too important in the Waikato region, and indeed New Zealand, to be allowed to fail."

Mr Anderson told the Cambridge Edition earlier this week that the visitor centre would replace the small kiosk which had been manned by volunteers.

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"Our volunteers have done a fantastic job welcoming visitors over the years and we certainly will continue to use them in the planned visitor centre.

"But the exact mix of how we staff the centre is yet to be decided."

MEIT – which manages 3400 hectares of forest surrounded by 47km of pest-proof fencing – relies on 37 fulltime volunteers to carry out its work programme of re-introducing endangered fauna.

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