Ecosanctuary funding down after three years

The Orokonui Ecosanctuary has just had its third birthday, but there are concerns as membership and funding have both dropped.

Speaking at the Otago Natural History Trust's annual general meeting on Thursday night, treasurer Ross Smith said uncertainty about suppliers to the sanctuary was a concern.

Trends of financial losses through its first three years were starting to become apparent, he said.

Losses included falling visitor numbers, guided tours, government funding, donations and memberships.

''It is dropping, but we're still making a cash surplus. It's not great, but we are holding our own.''

Mr Smith said the trust had budgeted for a small surplus for the next financial year.

The biggest funder for the trust was the local government, which funded 66% of its total budget.

He said funding from the local government and Doc was not guaranteed to continue and, through its new subcommittee, the trust was investigating how to boost sponsorship.

''We need to get the community involved. It is Otago's community project.''

The ecosanctuary has become the only place in the South Island of New Zealand where native birds, animals and insects can live without predators. Regular sponsorship was starting to come in and the trust was up to $61,000 this year compared to last year's $50,000, Mr Smith said.

Sponsorship covered 8% of the trust's total revenue.

The value of guided tours for the past year had dropped to $29,000 from $45,000, while unguided tours had increased from $74,000 to $97,000.

Although the trust would lose out on the unguided tour payment, Mr Smith said, it was a positive sign that more people were going through the ecosanctuary.

Mr Smith hoped visitor numbers would increase in September when the celebrity kakapo Sirocco arrived as part of his national tour.

If the bird did not arrive, the sanctuary would lose the better part of $40,000 from visits, he said.

One of the biggest influences for visitor numbers to the sanctuary and visitor centre was the Dunedin weather, as visitor numbers were heavily weather-dependent.

The trust was trying to build relationships with cruise ship operators coming ton Dunedin to get customers directly from the ships. Mr Smith said, overall, he was ''comfortable'' with the trust's financial position.

''We're not making huge losses, we're not making huge profits.''


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