The Brook Waimarama Sanctuary has had a roller coaster year but is now moving onto the next phase of development. Reporter Kate Russell talks to new chief executive Ru Collin, operations manager Nick Robson and ecosystem ranger Robert Schadewinkel about the future.
Tell us about the recent board changes at the sanctuary
Ru: “Since the beginning of the year, and after comprehensive review of our strategic agenda, we’ve undertaken a few changes. Dave Butler has stepped down as chairman after 15 years, with local businessman Chris Hawkes picking up the reigns. Over the past four months we’ve been running without an executive, but we’ve been lucky that we’ve attracted additional funding from key partners to put me in place.”
How will the new-look board regroup after such an up and down few years?
Ru: “We’ve got a sanctuary that is operating and open to the public on a limited basis, we’re predator free and now we’re working on getting our introductions programme of work in place. Looking at our skills, we’ll focus on improving general business, telling our sanctuary ‘story’, increasing fundraising and, most importantly, introducing lost species to the site.”
When will you start introducing new species?
Robert: “We’re looking to introduce rowi, which is the Okarito brown kiwi, this spring. We’ll also introduce the South Island saddleback in this coming financial year. The introductions programme of work aims to rollout two to three species a year, which is quite an ambitious goal, but I think we can do it. We’re also looking at mohua and kakariki. Even without the reintroductions, the existing established species – South Island robin, rifleman, tui, kereru and morepork – will really start to increase their breeding numbers.”
Are you still having to monitor predators closely?
Robert: “Yes, we do predator monitoring all the time. The fence can be damaged, so we have to constantly be on guard and keep our monitoring and our response to any breaches top notch.”
How will you make the sanctuary more visitor friendly?
Ru: “We want to make our outdoor classroom facility fully usable and build assets that will help support our reintroductions. We want to complete our valley loop track which involves a new bridge over a dam, and we plan on opening more tracks to the public in the future. Again, that work is subject to phasing and resources available, but we have some interesting initiatives at planning stage. We also have Rick Field hosting school tours, and we extend the invitation to any of the schools to come up and see us, as well as rest homes. Just contact [email protected]
Nick: “We’ve nearly finished repairing the Dun Mountain Track slip site. Contractors are finishing up and our volunteers will need another two or three weeks to complete the boardwalk work, and then it’ll be complete.”
Why have you asked the Nelson City Council for additional funding of $50,000 a year?
Ru: “If we want to extend our visitor experience offerings, it’s going to take more cost as its activity we will undertake within the sanctuary. We are also very keen to get back into the educational space because we believe that’s a place where we can add value, and it’s one of the main points of the trust deed.”
Do you still need volunteers?
Nick: “We always need more volunteers. We’ve got a huge number looking after the fence, cutting tracks and doing monitoring, so there’s loads of interesting work people can get involved in across the sanctuary. They just need to get in touch by emailing Sabrina at [email protected] brooksanctuary.org