Sunday, April 21, 2024

Ecosanctuary named NZ’s top tourist operation

Wellington’s ecosanctuary, Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne, has been named the nation’s top tourism operation.

The facility was won the prestigious Air New Zealand Supreme Tourism Award at last night’s awards ceremony.

The awards, presented by Tourism Industry Aotearoa, showcase and celebrate the best of New Zealand tourism’s individual and business successes. 

As well as taking out the top award, Zealandia also won the category of the Airbnb Tourism Excellence Award (Small-Medium Business). 

The Wellington not-for-profit organisation is the world’s first fully fenced urban ecosanctuary, with an extraordinary 500-year vision to restore the valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems.

“We feel honoured to receive these awards,” says Zealandia Chief Executive, Danielle Shanahan (pictured).

“The awards belong to the thousands of volunteers and staff who, over the years, have transformed the skies of Wellington from silence to the cacophony of bird song we hear today,” said Dr Shanahan.

“It shows that regenerative tourism is more than just a dream, and that visitors can support globally leading environment and community outcomes like those created by our small not-for-profit.”

The award recognises the outstanding regenerative approach to tourism that Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne embraces.

In a statement, Wellington City Council said the sanctuary had deep community support, with hundreds of volunteers and thousands of members.

“It delivers world-class learning experiences for youth and has transformed the birdlife of Wellington. Because of Zealandia, Wellington is now one of the only cities in the world where bird biodiversity is on the rise,” the Council said.

Only minutes from the centre of the city, Zealandia has nearly 140,000 visitors annually who can get up close with rare and endangered taonga/treasures who are normally found on offshore islands. Visitors can experience vulnerable native species such as tīeke, little spotted kiwi, and tuatara living wild just 2km from downtown Wellington.

“To even be considered for these awards is a huge achievement for us, and a testament to the mahi and dedication of our amazing team, visitors, partners, mana whenua Te Ātiawa, Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika and Ngāti Toa Rangatira, and supporters who have made this recognition possible,” said Dr Shanahan.

“We would also like to congratulate our fellow nominees and finalists. The awards night showcased the magic of New Zealand tourism. We dare to do things differently in Aotearoa, and last night it was clear that tourism can uplift communities and our environment, rather than taking away from them.”

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