Sun powers New Zealand island sanctuary

18 Nov 2010
New Zealand’s largest off-grid solar power system has been activated on the island of Motutapu in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf – another chapter in the sanctuary’s environmental success story.

Motutapu has received international recognition for its environmental conservation effort, and is now reaping the rewards with the return of species previously absent for 100 years.

Now the project will benefit further from renewable energy generation with the off-grid solar system providing up to 70% of the island’s power – saving 800 litres of diesel per week.

Conservation benefits
The solar power system has cost NZ$715,000 and is expected to generate at least 60,000kWh per year.

New Zealand’s Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson said the move to renewable energy generation on the island meant funds previously spent on diesel, and the hours spent maintaining and running generators, would now go directly on conservation work.

Motutapu and nearby Rangitoto Island were well on their way to becoming the largest pest-free sanctuaries in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park and power generation on the islands would now have little environmental cost, Wilkinson said.

DOC-managed islands
Power generated on Motutapu supplies a number of Department of Conservation (DOC) houses where staff and contractors live while carrying out conservation work.

It also supplies the Motutapu Outdoor Education Camp (MOEC), which hosts 12,000 guests annually, and the Motutapu Farm.

The new energy system is likely to be put to the test early next year when hundreds of visitors attend a 10-hour outdoor summer concert on the island. Concert profits will go towards conservation work.

Motutapu is the ninth DOC-managed island in New Zealand to have renewable energy solutions installed as part of an ongoing sustainability programme, which aims to boost renewable energy use and halve off-grid diesel fuel bills.

Now the renewable power generation system is complete, the power and water distribution networks on the island will also be upgraded. Cost savings associated with replacing the current system are estimated to be NZ$188,000 per year.

Background: Motutapu Island, Auckland

Because of its proximity to the metropolitan centre of Auckland, the Motutapu Island conservation project has provided a unique chance for the community to be involved.

Restoration has involved thousands of volunteers who have collected seeds, propagated plants in the island nursery, and planted over 350,000 native trees.

As well as restoring the natural landscape, the cultural landscape handed down by Māori, early settlers and WWII military residents is also being protected.

Earlier this year bellbirds were heard on Motutapu for the first time in 100 years. Native pateke / brown teal and kakariki / parakeet have also been spotted.

Background: ‘Live at the Islands’ summer concerts

The sound of New Zealand songbirds will be amplified on some island sanctuaries this summer with musical events that combine concerts and conservation.

‘Live at the Islands’ – a series of seven concerts running from late December 2010 through to February 2011 – will take place on the easily accessible islands of Motutapu, near Auckland, and Urupukapuka, in the Bay of Islands.

The unique outdoor settings are set to add a new element to New Zealand’s mid-summer outdoor festival programme.

The 10-hour Motutapu concert (12.02.2011) will feature a range of top Kiwi artists.

The island is a 30-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, and water taxis will also transport visitors to and from the event.

Profits will go to the Motutapu Restoration Trust which has undertaken a major conservation project on Motutapu and Rangitoto islands.

More information

Breathing life into NZ’s island sanctuaries

Island concerts support NZ conservation

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