More than 60 people gathered at Aroha Island near Kerikeri for a hangi to say farewell to managers Gay and Greg Blunden who have lived and worked there for nine years.
The Ecological Centre has also been the headquarters of the New Zealand Kiwi Foundation since it was set up in 1999.
It was a poignant occasion as many of the people attending had also been involved with the Kiwi Foundation from its inception.
Kiwi Foundation trustee, Tim Robinson, said: “Gay and Greg’s departure from Aroha is dissapointing, but it is also an opportunity for us to thank them for all their hard work and enthusiasm in saving and protecting our Kiwi.”
“Hopefully they will continue their kiwi advocacy work despite not having that vital link to the public which the ecological centre has offered over the past years.”
The Kiwi Foundation and the Blundens are moving because of plans by Aroha Island's owners, the QE II Trust, to lease it to a commercial operator.
It's not yet known where the Kiwi Foundation will go, but it's hoped a trust set up by Kerikeri residents, which submitted a tender application in March to run the island, will be successful.
In this case, the Kiwi Foundation may be able to return to Aroha. The outcome of the tender process should be known this month.
If the trust is unsuccessful, residents fear it would mean the island’s loss as a place open to the public, a kiwi sanctuary and an ecological centre.
A book of thanks to Greg and Gay for their work protecting kiwi and other native birds from their base at Aroha will be at UniChem Pharmacy for the next two weeks.
Tim Robinson, said: “As a parting gift from Aroha Island it would be great if all those people who have been involved with or enjoyed Aroha over the years would like to make a written contribution of thanks, make comments, record anecdotes or pass on their best wishes as a thank you to the Blundens for all their hard work.”
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