Kiwi North has plenty to offer visitors
Allie Fry, Director of Operations at Kiwi North, Whangarei’s museum and heritage park, has had a long and engaging history with the award-winning enterprise. She began her journey with Kiwi North as a volunteer 16 years ago and has been a part of major growth and development ever since, something she is very proud of.
“We have an amazing group of people who work here and amazing longevity of our staff and volunteers.One gentleman who comes in to help has been doing so for as long as I have been here and that’s very heartening.”
The history of Kiwi North is intriguing. Back in 1972 the property was bought by the then North-land Regional Museum Trust.
Beyond a space to settle the valued museum collection the Trust also became owners of 62 acres which was one quarter of an original farm. It operated as an incorporated society until 2006 when the decision was made to convert to the Whangarei Museum and Heritage Trust which governs Kiwi North
.“There’s a wonderful quote from the president of the original society Mr King which speaks to the long-term vision held for the property which says ‘It will become a place where the present generation and those to follow will find in the midst of the busy city life a sanctuary which in common with their history belongs to everybody.’”
One of the reasons Allie says why Kiwi North is flourishing as a tourist and local destination is the way that the Trust works. As the Director of Operations she has a seat on the trust board as does the Director of Finance,.“It means that decision making by the Trust is informed through our input from the operational sphere.”
Kiwi North has an array of experiences to offer visitors, including the Museum, seeing Kiwi up close in Northland’s only Kiwi House, a gift store and Victorian heritage buildings that belonged to the original farm owner, Dr Alexander Clark, who bought the property in 1886.
“We’re very proud of the fact that three generations of his family lived in Glorat, the family homestead, followed by us purchasing the property. There’s a strong connection for us therefore with the history of this very special place,” says Allie.
Kiwi have been on the property for about 25 years and the current kiwi house opened in 2011. Visitors from all over the world come to view the kiwi, tuatara and native gecko and there’s a strong educational and environmental strand to Kiwi North’s purposes, as Allie explains.
“We’re part of the national captive kiwi management programme and look after the young ones until they reach an age where they are either selected for breeding or are released into safe kiwi environments. While they are with us living in replicated natural conditions we use them as advocated for the species and our ecosystems.”
This year has been an exciting one also in terms of recognition for the quality and value of the Kiwi North experience when, at this year’s Westpac Northland Business Awards, Kiwi North was among the finalists in the popular people’s choice category.
“That was really lovely to feel so many people chose Kiwi North to nominate.”Allie says that a visit to Kiwi North provides visitors, many of whom are from overseas with unique experiences such as experiencing what it was like to be a school pupil in the 19th century.
“We place visitors in Riponui Pa School back in 1898 where they have a lesson. You can imagine that students from China, for instance, would have no idea at all about how children well over a century ago were taught.
“Even things like how clothes were washed on the old scrub board is something they could never have imagined.”Kiwi North maintains a lot of contact with schools who regularly visit its attractions and also outreaches to more distant schools with EOTC teachers engaged under contract with the Ministry of Education.
Allie is proud of the team culture and the positive feedback she gets from visitors.“I think we’re very fortunate to have such a wonderful ‘green-belt’ space near the city which will never be built on.”
Plans ahead involve a massive building conservation programme with 60% of the necessary funds already amassed. Two buildings on the site are Grade 2 Heritage listed. The 1861 Oruaiti Chapel conservation project is complete but the homestead itself needs repiling, a new roof and rot replaced.
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