Imagine the experience of playing golf on a world class championship course, immersed in the natural beauty of a wildlife sanctuary. The ambitious project is the brainchild of owner Gary Lane and has seen a dedicated five kilometre ‘Xcluder’ fence installed around the entire course perimeter. The fence stands more than 2 metres tall and has been specially designed to keep out predators like rats, mice, stoats, weasels, hedgehogs, feral cats and possums.
Around 25,000 native trees and five thousand exotics have been planted to encourage bird life and further improve the park like surroundings. Mixed colour pheasants, guinea fowl, pekin ducks and fallow deer have also been released on to the property.
In 2012, an agreement was established between Wairakei Golf + Sanctuary and the Department of Conservation to work cooperatively together to make the most of conservation and restoration opportunities within the sanctuary. That includes using the predator free environment as a crèche for kiwi chicks, a safe place for them to "find their feet" and grow. Wairakei has been home to many kiwi chicks since.
March 2015, Wairakei welcomed retired breeding takahē, Grant and Flotsom, followed by Matariki and Hauhanga in August. For the takahē, the Wairakei retirement opportunity is an escape from competition while clearing vital breeding space for younger takahē pairs on their pest-free home bases. Late 2015, Matariki and Hauhanga (unexpectedly) came out of retirement to produce Wairakei’s first takahē chick, Sammy. Sammy is a very special chick; especially considering there are only 280 takahē left in New Zealand.
Along with the new takahē chick, there was also the arrival of two kārearea (New Zealand falcon) chicks. The kārearea parents started coming to the area several years ago. Previously they had laid their eggs just outside of the predator-proof fence, then chose to nest off the ninth tee making the most of the predator free environment for raising their young.