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Freedom inside the fence

Fiona Thomson

12km from Eltham, in Southern Taranaki is where you can find the hidden gem of Rotokare Bird Sanctuary.

Initially we were looking for a freedom park for the night, but following the recommendation of friends we came here, through the big gates, to this pest-free reserve and we discovered it was so much more than a parking spot.

This stunning, 230ha, forested hill-country catchment is protected by an 8.2km pest-proof fence that circles the reserve perimeter.

This fence is not like any garden fence: it has special features with it’s own electric tripwire surveillance system — which runs along the top of the fence. At close to 2m high, with its smooth rolled edges, this fence prevents climbing animals such as cats and possums from getting a grip to climb in. It’s constructed from a fine stainless steel mesh that is tight enough to stop small rodents from getting through. At the base, the foundations of the fence are anchored below ground level — creating a barrier to digging animals such as rabbits and hares.

The fence protects the regenerating native bush, and a 17.8ha natural lake with extensive wetlands.

Lake Rotokare

There are several walking tracks that weave through the native bush that include tawa, rewarewa, and mahoe trees.

The floating observation deck

It took us 45 minutes to walk around the 4km lakeside track, providing us with the opportunity to spot a variety of bird life including tūī, kereru, korimako/bellbirds, and a personal favourite —tīeke/saddlebacks. The track was well constructed, and we even meet a family negotiating it with a pushchair.

Toutouwai/North Island robin

During the night, we could clearly hear the call of the ruru/morepork and — to our delight — kiwi. Rotokare offers public, night encounters (by prior arrangement) at a nominal fee from July to September.

There is a selection of parking spots for motorhomes and self-contained vehicles, plus picnic tables and benches along the lake edge. There are public toilets including a wheelchair-accessible toilet and an information shelter. This is also a popular recreation area for boaties. Dogs are prohibited.

The Sanctuary is free to enter and open 24/7. The instructions for drivers entering were clearly displayed with a simple traffic light system to guide vehicles entering and exiting. n

Our camper exiting the vehicle gate system.

Our camper exiting the vehicle gate system.

It’s own electric tripwire surveillance system

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