Environment Waikato has granted $20,000 from its Environmental Initiatives Fund to sponsor the construction of a pest-proof fence around the Driving Creek Wildlife Sanctuary.
Less than a decade ago the 1.6 ha sanctuary, located next to major tourist attraction the Driving Creek Railway and Potteries near Coromandel town, was a grazed paddock. Today it is QEII covenanted and boasts a recreated wetland, more than 7000 native trees and shrubs and a walking track system.
It is also home to a breeding pair of endangered pateke (brown teal), New Zealand’s rarest mainland waterfowl species.
The Driving Creek Wildlife Sanctuary Trust owns the land, donated by potter, conservationist and trust chairman Barry Brickell and a local school is already using the area for conservation education.
The trust plans to develop an education centre to teach visitors to the Coromandel about the area’s native species and the ecological damage caused by introduced pests. A pest-proof fence around the sanctuary will keep predators out and provide a haven for plants and animals.
“Although the protected area will be small, there is some potential for conservation education of the more than 40,000 visitors per year who visit the adjacent Driving Creek Railway,” said Coromandel Councillor Simon Friar.
“School groups will be able to visit the sanctuary without charge.”
The sanctuary could also be important for species that don’t need a large habitat area, such as the rare Coromandel striped gecko.
The Department of Conservation would eventually like to use the sanctuary as a recovery area for injured birds before they are returned to the wild.