Ecosanctuary staff, hours cut

Orokonui Ecosanctuary. Photo: ODT files
Orokonui Ecosanctuary. Photo: ODT files
Orokonui Ecosanctuary is the latest victim of the Omicron outbreak, the popular bird refuge having announced redundancies and cuts to its opening hours.

Staff hours have been reduced and some roles disestablished, while from next Monday the sanctuary will open only on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays between 9.30am and 4.30pm.

The on-site Horopito Cafe is also scaling back its hours, and will be open from 11am-2pm on those days.

Orokonui general manager Amanda Symon said the Omicron outbreak coming at the start of summer had been particularly difficult for the sanctuary, as this was when it made the most revenue.

This came in tandem with significantly less government support available to tourism businesses at present, she said.

"The changes we are making are necessary to ensure that we can continue the work that we do for generations to come."

She was unable to confirm the number of roles made redundant, citing the privacy of the affected staff members, but said the Orokonui team was made up of "really talented people" and it was devastating to let people go.

An email to sanctuary volunteers seen by the Otago Daily Times revealed that one of the positions made redundant was that of the volunteer co-ordinator.

The recent news that the international border would be reopening to vaccinated travellers was welcome, but unlikely to have a major impact for a lot of tourism operators in the short term, Ms Symon said.

Before the pandemic, 60% of visitors to Orokonui had been Dunedin locals, and the remainder was split evenly between domestic and international tourists.

The management team hoped once external conditions started to return to normal in the longer term, the sanctuary could resume its previous level of service.

In the meantime, locals wanting to support the sanctuary could still do so by visiting during its new hours, buying a membership or annual pass, or by making a direct donation.

Visitor revenue was responsible for 65% of the ecosanctuary’s operating costs.

The remainder came from grants, donations and scholarships.

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