Trust keen to make ecosanctuary viable

Gift subscriptions, campervan advertising and an endowment fund are being considered to help make Orokonui Ecosanctuary financially sustainable.

At the ecosanctuary trust's annual meeting this week, treasurer Ross Smith described the trust as being "on a very sound footing" but it had a "long way to go" before being financially sustainable.

"It is critical we move away from being dependent on hand-outs," he said.

The trust stayed debt free through the past year, largely because of a $50,000 anonymous donation by a member who became aware of struggles faced through winter.

"We've got to be realistic and in the short to medium world economy forecasts, having an organisation that is dependent on money from heaven is not appropriate."

Sponsors had also indicated they needed to tighten their belts and "unfortunately, we are their discretionary funds".

Mr Smith said the trust needed to know "where our income is coming from" and believed a "key initiative" to achieve that was establishing an endowment fund.

"Our intention is to build a fund which will give us a significant income from the interest. The idea is to build up this endowment fund to, initially, about $1 million ... but we already have recently got seeding for that," he said.

With current interest rates, the $1 million target could reap $40,000-$50,000 a year.

The trust recently received a bequest of $37,000 and, with smaller donations, the fund was about $44,000 without officially launching.

Mr Smith also hoped to find a "cornerstone" sponsor to contribute $50,000 a year to help boost visitor numbers and develop the ecosanctuary.

Another way to receive predictable funding was through membership.

Revenue from membership subscriptions increased more than $16,000 on the previous year which was a "great trend" and needed to "grow".

Also moving in a positive direction were visitor numbers.

In his report, chairman Neville Peat said $173,000 was received from entry ticket sales, up about two-thirds compared with last year, with 9760 people paying to enter the ecosanctuary.

However, about 10,000 people came to the visitor centre but did not buy an entry ticket and "we are likely to need two to three times the number of ticket-buying visitors to feel comfortable financially", he said.

Mr Peat said cruise-ship passengers appeared an "obvious target" but it was "far from easy" to get them "up the hill from Port Chalmers".

He believed advertising with campervan companies might be an easier way to attract international visitors.

Promotion gift subscriptions at Christmas could increase membership and breeding kiwi were expected to make the ecosanctuary's after dark tours more popular.




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