A unique $2 million ecological restoration project being undertaken at Wairakei International Golf Course, north of Taupo, is the first of its kind in the country.
The development was prompted by golf course owner Gary Lane’s desire to create a unique environment where golf and the natural habitat work in harmony.
He says the opportunity to work with ecological experts and create a “pest free” environment that will enhance the natural beauty of the golf course and surroundings has enabled the vision to become a reality.
“Being able to provide a haven for plant and birdlife will give golf at Wairakei another dimension by adding to the visual experience without impacting on the course,” said Mr Lane.
As part of the first phase of the project Rotorua based company Xcluder Pest Proof Fencing has been employed to construct a five kilometre fence around the perimeter of the 150 ha property in the Wairakei Tourist Park. The two metre high Xcluder fence is designed to prevent predators entering the property and has been used successfully around New Zealand in the last 10 years to protect stands of native bush on reserves and privately owned farmland. It is the first time the company has used the fence to completely enclose a golf course. The fence is under construction and is due for completion in October 2009. Any remaining predators can then be removed.
An ecological and restoration plan that will guide future development of the sanctuary is currently being prepared by Rotorua based Wildland Consultants in conjunction with Mr Lane. Ecologist for Wildlands Dr Tim Day said the removal of predators from the property would allow existing bird species like tui, bellbird, pheasant and quail to thrive and may create habitat suitable for the reintroduction of wetland birds or other species. He said the landscape at Wairakei also meant that the owner’s desire to consider other species like fallow deer, could add to the aesthetic appeal without compromising golf or protection of bird and plant life.
Dr Day said the project presented a “unique opportunity” to blend recreation with restoration and conservation.
“At Wairakei you have a highly managed, beautiful, mostly exotic landscape within the golf course where people primarily go to play golf, relax and enjoy themselves.
“The owner is adding to that by enhancing the ecological values and natural features of the site through permanent exclusion of predators and complementary native restoration and habitat enhancement.
“The restoration activities will add a new dimension to the experience for a group of people who might not otherwise be exposed to this sort of project or its benefits.”
“It is a magnificent landscape with obvious potential” said Dr Day.
In preparation for the restoration phase the existing lake on the 18th hole of the golf course has been extended to allow for development of wetland areas. Blackberry and broom on the perimeter of the course are also being cleared ready for planting.