Blessing for tuatara facility site in Queens Park takes place

Work on constructing the new tuatara facility will soon commence following the blessing of the site by mana whenua.

On Friday morning, drenched in sunshine, Waihōpai Rūnaka representatives Ra Dallas and Evelyn Cook, together with Ngāti Koata representative Zealan Simpkins, of Nelson, performed karakia and a blessing of the site in Queens Park.

In June, Christchurch-based firm Studio4 came on board to design the new tuatara facility that will be located in the animal reserve near the playground car park.

Concepts for the facility were released in July, which detail nine separate areas that have the capacity to house up to 21 tuatara, and an attached staff building that includes space for a bug station, hospital pen, and working space for Living Species Officers.

Council Manager Parks and Recreation Caroline Rain said it was a privilege to be able to look after the tuatara in such a beautiful setting as Queens Park.

“We know the community has been missing seeing the tuatara and we are looking forward to being able to house them in this new facility.

“This facility has been designed specifically with the tuatara in mind and this will be as close to their natural habitat as possible.”

As the husbandry guidelines for tuatara are currently under review by our advisors, the Tuatara Recovery Group, it was heartening to know that this facility will be the best practice guide to look after this special and unique reptile, Rain said.

“We know from Wellington Zoo, and feedback from the Tuatara Recovery group, led by the Department of Conservation, that they have seen significant benefits when the tuatara are housed in more natural habitats as opposed to man-made, artificial environments. We are so grateful to be in the position where we can follow their lead and provide a more natural environment for our tuatara.”

Council Group Manager Infrastructure Erin Moogan said Friday morning’s blessing checked off another milestone in Project 1225, and she was looking forward to seeing building get under way.

“This is a particularly special part of Project 1225 as we know how much the tuatara means to our community. When this facility is finished, it will have the capacity to house 21 tuatara, which visitors can spy out when they come to see it.

“The facility is about creating a safe and inviting space for our precious taonga, as that is of the utmost importance to us as kaitiaki of these amazing creatures.”

Soon, hoarding will go up around the site in preparation for work to start later this month. Geotechnical work has already taken place. The enclosure is expected to be completed in April 2024.

The animals that occupied the site of the new facility have been moved to another part of the park and visitors will still be able to see the other animals while construction is under way. The animals will not be impacted by the construction, however some will be moved to other areas so they are not disturbed.

The construction of the new tuatara enclosure is part of Project 1225, the city’s museum rebuild project, which also includes the construction of the Tisbury storage facility and museum rebuild.

More information about Project 1225 can be found on the website Project 1225 | Invercargill and Southland’s museum.