Spades full of earth turned over at Shakespear Regional Park today signalled the beginning of a new era for the park and a long-awaited start on a pest proof fence that will stretch across the peninsula.
Representatives from the Auckland Regional Council (ARC), Shakespear Open Sanctuary Society Inc (SOSSI), New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and Rodney District Council (RDC) took part in a sod turning ceremony to mark the beginning of fence construction.
ARC Chairman Michael Lee says this is the day when Shakespear Regional Park takes the decisive step forward to becoming an open sanctuary.
“I look forward to the day when native birds like bellbirds, parakeets, hihi, kaka and kiwi are abundant and safely breeding on Shakespear Regional Park.
“Not only will local people come in their thousands to experience this sanctuary – but the birds we breed here will certainly be coming to visit local residents in the gardens of Whangaparaoa and beyond,” says Chairman Lee.
Cr Sandra Coney, Chair of the ARC’s Parks and Heritage Committee, acknowledges that this is a momentous occasion for the council and for the groups who have supported the development of the open sanctuary and fundraising efforts.
“Much work has gone into preparing for this day – from planning the best route for the fence, archaeological surveys, finding someone to build the fence and raising the money to pay for it.
“It is very rewarding to be here today and see the vision finally becoming a reality.
“Although it seems like an end point after so much hard work, this is in fact the beginning of Shakespear Open Sanctuary,” says Cr Coney.
The ARC acknowledges the support of community partner SOSSI, and landowning partners the NZDF and RDC who continue to show their support and be good park neighbours. This collaboration has allowed the shortest and most cost effective fence route which will protect the greatest land area.
The pest proof fence and gates will be completed by June 2011. Pest eradication, which is necessary for resident and future wildlife to thrive, will be undertaken in winter 2011 by a proposed poison bait drop as well as trapping and hunting.
SOSSI volunteers, lead by Chairman Allan Parker and a dedicated committee, have raised over $400,000 in donations, fundraising efforts and grants toward the fence.
“This is a proud moment for SOSSI as we see the result of many years of fundraising beginning to take place in front of us.
“The Shakespear Open Sanctuary will be a treasured addition to this peninsula and we couldn’t have done it without the support of our community and the grant agencies who have contributed to our Fencepost Appeal,” says Mr Parker.
The Shakespear Open Sanctuary fence will be 1.75km long, from Okoromai Bay to Army Bay. The open sanctuary will cover 555 hectares of land which includes parcels of land owned by RDC and the NZDF. Although closed to public access, the RDC and NZDF land will be subject to pest control, helping to maintain the pest-free status of the open sanctuary.
Public access to the park will remain unchanged. Automated vehicle gates will allow the public access to the park while keeping unwanted pests out. These gates will be installed after the fence is completed and SOSSI is continuing to fundraise for the gates.
“The fundraising isn’t over yet,” says Mr Parker. “We still need around $150,000 for the automated gates. And we’re also looking for lots of new members, there’s going to be a lot of ongoing work with this sanctuary, and we’ll need an army of volunteers to help us with it.”
To join SOSSI or become an open sanctuary volunteer go to www.sossi.org.nz.