The Point Bush Ecosanctuary Trust has a new home.
The former Harvest Bar and Kitchen building has been converted into a visitor and information centre for the project, which aims to establish a protected area of native bush close to Waimate.
It has already hosted guests such as climate change speaker Philip Reid, and ecosanctuary founders Gary and Ann Dennison want to hold more regular events as the project gains momentum.
The couple is waiting for funding to be finalised for 3.7km of predator fencing which will surround the ecosanctuary.
Then, with the help of a team of volunteers, they can start the process of planting the 90ha hill block in native plants without the threat of pests.
“We want to add to all these native corridors of native bush around the districts, so the birds can get from one to the other,” Gary said.
The biggest threat to the native plants were wallabies, Mrs Dennison said.
Hunters had been deployed to do night shooting, killing about 10 per night, but the marsupials were now found in an increasingly bigger area, from Otago to Mt Cook.
“There are tracks up there that look man-made, but they are wallaby [tracks],” she said.
“They are cunning and shy .. the hunters say you can see about 80 of them looking over the fence on the [Department of Conservation] block.”
During lockdown, the Dennisons noticed a huge increase in the number of recreational mountain bikers and walkers on the trails.
It was heartening, as the focus of the ecosanctuary was also on recreation and wellness, Mrs Dennison said.
“The wellness of just being in the bush around the birdlife was extraordinary,” she said.
“It is still busy now. We have mountain bikers coming up after work with lights.”