Funding saves festival: organiser

Wild Dunedin co-chairman Neil Harraway is thrilled to have received the backing of four local...
Wild Dunedin co-chairman Neil Harraway is thrilled to have received the backing of four local businesses for the Wild Dunedin Festival this year. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
A group of local businesses have banded together to prop up a popular nature festival.

The Wild Dunedin Festival, or the New Zealand Festival of Nature, is a 10-day celebration of the country’s wildlife which supports conservation efforts for the yellow-eyed penguin.

This year, a total of $50,000 has been granted from four new sponsors to boost the festival to its full potential.

The festival has a premier sponsor in the Otago Peninsula Eco Restoration Alliance (Opera) as well as support from Aotea Electric, Gallaway Cook Allan law firm and the University of Otago.

Opera, formerly known as Penguin Place, is a private ecological reserve and has been involved with the festival since its conception.

The funding comes off the back of growing acclaim for the festival.

Wild Dunedin co-chairman Neil Harraway said the festival had attracted more than 24,000 attendees last year and had become a nationally recognised event.

With higher numbers came greater demand, and the festival had outgrown its grant funding from the council and Otago Community Trust.

Mr Harraway said he was grateful to their new sponsors for their support and the larger festival would benefit the community financially, socially and environmentally.

Had they not received the additional funding, he said they would have faced the decision to go with a smaller festival or can it entirely.

"We would have had to decide do we want to run something limited or do we call it a day.

"This is the wildlife capital of New Zealand and we’re celebrating that."

The money would be used to compensate part-time staff and build up their expertise, he said.

Opera director Jerad Haldan said working with the festival was a natural fit.

Mr Haldan said they were excited by the festival’s increased popularity and it was awesome to continue to support them.

"We think the festival is just one of the greatest activities that happens in Dunedin.

"To be able to ... further the reach of what the festival is doing and the opportunity to attract even more people to the festival — it was a completely perfect fit."

This year’s theme is weather and climate change, and attendees can expect a nature-themed masquerade ball, a Wild Night at Larnach Castle and the debut of a new gala event.

The Wild Dunedin Festival will run from April 19 to 28.