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New Wingspan site is now open to visitors

One of Rotorua's most loved conservation sites is now open to the public once again. The new Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre is still under construction, but visitors can now check out progress at the new site.

Last year the team from Wingspan moved from their Paradise Valley Road location to a new site just down the road. The move was thanks to a new partnership with Ngāti Whakaue Tribal Lands and although construction is still underway – visitors can once again see these stunning native birds in action.

Since Christmas, the team has been offering members of the public one-hour progress visits on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The visits start at 11.30am and include an introduction to the Wingspan Conservation programme in the falconers' shed followed by falcon in-flight training at midday.

Wingspan founder and director Debbie Stewart says the progress visits have been well received by the community. “People love coming here and seeing the birds in action and hearing about the work that we do,” she says.

Wingspan has been operating in Rotorua for 26 years under the guidance of Debbie, who says this new venture is “exciting”.

She says the new location provides the award winning conservation programme room to expand and grow, while the collaboration with Ngāti Whakaue could provide youth development opportunities for iwi.

Debbie says the move and growth of Wingspan was thanks to the support it received from the community as well as funding from sponsors and grants. 

“We have been overwhelmed by the support we receive but we still need more funding to help us finish the new centre,” she says. “We are hoping to be open fully within 2019.”

Debbie says the new centre is already “loosely called home”. “We want people to feel at home and take home the messages they learn here.”

New technology will also be used to tell the story of Wingspan and its conservation efforts. “Because we celebrate flight, we'll be using some newly-invented equipment, which is the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere.” 

Rocrow is a remote-controlled magpie which can aide flight training and fitness for the birds. “People can witness a natural flight path.”

Debbie is looking forward to the new centre opening and welcoming more visitors. “In the meantime, if people want to come and see what we are up to, bookings are essential.”

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