Nature’s Wonders

A childhood dream becomes an eco-tourism reality

When Perry and Tracey Reid bought their farm on the Otago Peninsula 12 years ago it was pretty much a blank canvas. There were no fences, the gorse rose higher than Perry’s tractor, and the only signs of life previously were the remnants of barracks where more than 4,000 WW2 soldiers were housed.

But what appealed to the Reids was that the farm came with riparian rights to the coastline that is home to the little blue penguin, fur seals, a variety of bird life, and the yellow-eyed penguin, the world’s rarest.

Purchasing the farm was the start of a dream that was born decades before. “Since I was five years old I have always had a dream, an inner belief in conservation to ensure the land is preserved for future generations by protecting the penguins, fur seals, and other wildlife,” says Perry.

Ten years ago the Reids began transforming the 200 hectare coastal farm into their now world-famous wildlife sanctuary, Natures Wonders.

But Nature’s Wonders isn’t just a wildlife haven; it is a thriving eco-tourism business that hosts tours of the land and coastline for both locals and tourists. There is also a large café on site and a new conference centre is planned for the WW2 army barracks.

“My plan was always to develop an eco-tourism business with conservation as the driver. Our wildlife is living in its natural environment – that’s our main point of difference,” says Perry.

The transformation has taken millions of dollars and although not complete yet, for Perry it’s never been about the money. “Dollars are a by-product of success. For me it’s about family and without my family’s support and belief in Natures Wonders, it would never have been this successful,” he says.

The Reids are no strangers to hard work and Nature’s Wonders is truly a family affair involving Perry, Tracey and their four children. “We all work the farm; run the tours and shows, and Tracey runs the office and café. In summer we employ 14 or so people plus family and we expect to triple that in the next five years.”

Amongst the offerings for locals and tourists are a variety of interactive tours, a shearing show, a full history and fort tour – all taking in the spectacular views of the coastline and abundant wildlife. One of the main attractions is the colonies of yellow-eyed penguins that have increased in numbers over the last 10 years from 17 pairs to 60 pairs today.

As part of their ongoing conservation programme, the Reids will shortly plant two million native tree seeds that will not only attract birds, but create a sustainable forest. They also plan to complete the predator fencing on the property, an investment that has already resulted in a remarkable increase in wildlife on the farm.

Perry and Tracey firmly believe one of the key ingredients to creating a successful business is having a good accountant, which they have found in Barry O’Donnell at Markhams Clarke Craw.

“I deal with the team at Markhams Clarke Craw on a day to day basis and find them very personable and reliable,” says Tracey.

Perry agrees. “Whilst business hasn’t always been easy, Markhams Clarke Craw has been there every step of the way. They are incredibly supportive and offer constructive advice.

“I believe success breeds success and my philosophy is that you deal with the best people. I think we have found that in Barry and the team.”

Although Perry has had his critics who thought he was mad taking on such a project, he says he is simply following his heart. “I’m an ordinary bugger really. But I believe that your dreams aren’t big enough if they don’t scare you! And mine scare me, but I’m never giving up. I haven’t been as excited about life this much since yesterday.”

Published Spring 2011.

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