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Orokonui Ecosanctuary's Alister Robinson pays tribute to the many supportive Dunedin businesses that sponsor the work done in the ecosanctuary.
Making sure the wages can be paid and paying all the creditors for a large ecosanctuary requires careful financial management and a range of income channels.
Traditionally, Orokonui has relied on membership and entrance fees, its cafe and shop, the generous assistance of a number of community and private trusts and a small number of Dunedin corporates. In addition, a significant proportion of funding has come from Government through the Department of Conservation.
Last year Orokonui faced some tough decisions when most of the Department of Conservation contestable funding it relied on dried up. Orokonui did not want to reduce staffing or borrow money to survive as some other New Zealand sanctuaries have been forced to do.
Orokonui Ecosanctuary has now developed a powerful group of corporate sponsors who annually support the development and financial sustainability of the sanctuary. While a small number of sponsors have been associated with Orokonui for many years, there are now a number of new ones.
A concerted approach to Dunedin businesses produced some outstanding support. There is now a wide range of Dunedin companies supporting the sanctuary.
Hope and Sons has supported Orokonui from the start, eight years ago, and has contributed more than $100,000. As Janette Hope explains: "For Hope and Sons, being associated with Orokonui allows us to promote the peace and tranquillity of Orokonui to our families who are facing a very tough time, and at the same time help Orokonui develop.''
The financial support and the assistance City Forests Ltd gave to the relocation of South Island robins from its Silver Peaks forests has made it a highly valued corporate sponsor. It is now the largest annual corporate contributor to Orokonui. Grant Dodson, its chief executive, commented: "It is a wonderful partnership we have established with Orokonui. We are proud to be assisting with native species enhancement, both on and around our forest estate.''
The 4WD vehicle with the Orokonui logo often seen around Dunedin is a vital tool in the work of the sanctuary. It was provided by Cooke Howlison. Adrienne Ensor, chief executive of Cooke Howlison, comments: "Cooke Howlison Toyota is proud to be associated with the Orokonui Ecosanctuary and we saw the opportunity to supply the sanctuary with a Toyota Hilux as a great way for us to support their conservation efforts with native species and plants. We believe in trying to make a difference in the community.''
A little closer to home is Port Chalmers' important corporate, Port Otago, which has agreed to provide financial support over three years. The port company has often made use of the facilities at Orokonui for meetings. Kevin Winders, chief executive of Port Otago, puts it simply: "They are our neighbours; it's our environment; it fits with our values.''
Sometimes sponsorship is attached to a particular project. Emerson's Brewery has chosen to sponsor the rare tokoeka kiwi that roam freely through Orokonui - a rare kiwi supported by a rare brew!
Educating the children of Otago on the merits of conservation and protecting the environment is one of the most important purposes of Orokonui and more than 7000 local school children visit each year. OceanaGold has been a key supporter of that programme since 2012. Annie Fitzgerald, PA operations at OceanaGold, explained: "OceanaGold Macraes fosters a unique partnership alongside the Orokonui Ecosanctuary and is excited with the ongoing work and accomplishments achieved. The effort by Orokonui staff, volunteers and fellow outside-group partnerships endures to show what can be achieved with ongoing restoration of an entire forest ecosystem to its pre-human state.''
Other important sponsors include the University of Otago, MTF, Meridian Mall, AWF, Summerset Retirement Villages, Dunedin Airport, Veridian Glass and Calder Stewart, all Dunedin corporate leaders who see the benefits of helping provide the long-term security for this community project. Orokonui remains an important destination for the education and entertainment of the adults and children of this special city.
Helen Nicholson, deputy vice-chancellor external engagement at the university, told us Orokonui is a wonderful "laboratory'' for many science students, who have access to plants and animals conveniently close to the university for research, "but it is more than that. Orokonui and the university are both engaged with the wider Dunedin community and we wish to be in partnership with Orokonui in that endeavour.''
In sponsorship, the benefits accrue to both parties. It is always difficult to keep the finances healthy in a large charitable operation like Orokonui, but I have been blown away by the incredible support provided by Dunedin businesses. It has made my job easier, and allows us to forward plan knowing we have community support and sound financial backing. It is a Dunedin community project, and we are thrilled with the support we get from throughout the community and, in particular, from these local corporates.
- Al Robinson works as an active volunteer in the ecosanctuary in addition to his role as treasurer on OEL, the Orokonui Business Board.