Community efforts to restore habitats and protect
species through fenced enclosures may be taking the pressure
off the Government support conservation, Otago business
academic Prof Colin Campbell-Hunt says.
''It would be a nasty possible effect if it reduces
Government contributions to conservation. That would be
''It is exactly the opposite of what we want,'' he said. He
is the co-author of Ecosanctuaries, a recent book on
the development of six New Zealand ecosanctuaries: Orokonui,
in Dunedin, Tawharanui Open Sanctuary, north of Auckland,
Maungatautari, in Waikato, Rotokare, in Taranaki, Bushy Park,
in Wanganui and Karori (now Zealandia), in Wellington.
If it was reducing Government contributions, it meant the
cause was going backwards, not forwards.
''Everyone in conservation wants more effort and emphasis to
support these creatures.
''We want to grow support for conservation.''
His experience in business and his role on the Orokonui
Ecosanctuary trust board meant he was an ideal position to
see how the whole business language coming out of the
Department of Conservation and Government was wrong for
conservation, Prof Campbell-Hunt, who is also a trustee on
Orokonui's trust board, said.
''It's misconceived. Any economic valuation of endangered
species seriously undervalues what they are.''
New Zealand's special flora and fauna should be protected and
looked after for the next generations, regardless of any
financial gain to be made from them.
''We don't own them. You can't put a price on them and make
them dance in tune.''
The Government existed for the public good and conservation
was one of those public goods which should not be sold to
meet the costs that will need to be covered in the future, he
While ecosanctuaries charged people to enter their
predator-proof sanctuaries, it was to continue their
conservation work, which in turn generated a flow-on gain for
''It's a question of degree. They are building up public
The six sanctuaries featured in the book offered six distinct
attempts to find a viable and sustainable model for
communities to contribute to and promote conservation, he
''Each is more or less a unique experiment into these
innovative new strategies for conservation and advocacy.''
The past year had been good for Orokonui. Visitor numbers and
volunteer hours were strong and it was starting to get on a
firm footing, he said.
''It takes time to build up social support and market it as a
tourism destination when recreating a world from the past
takes a decade or so.''
Rotokare, in Taranaki, was also doing well, but Karori was
struggling to get the balance right, he believed.
The conclusion from the research in the book was that the
sanctuaries had to sustain community support, as without the
support of volunteers they would not be able to keep on
''Their purpose is to capture the communities' imagination
and make them understand what's at risk.''
Their success was based on four essential aspects, including
support from the community, Department of Conservation and
iwi and input from local government, and if one was lost or
one relied on too heavily, the long-term sustainability of
the venture was in danger, he said.
The early emergence of a market for local visitors favoured
sanctuaries such as Orokonui and Karori, which could charge
fees and were near large populations.
''Efforts are ongoing to develop product offerings that are
attractive to tourists without undermining the sanctuary's
core purposes of conservation and advocacy.''
As a result, a sustainable future for community-led
sanctuaries seemed likely to involve ongoing tension between
sanctuaries' primary mission to contribute to the restoration
of biodiversity and to advocate for conservation and the
economic imperatives of earning enough income to cover costs.
''The pursuit of higher visitor numbers may at some point
undermine a sanctuary's ability to shock its visitors with
the realisation of what the world felt like before it was
subjugated to human need.''