Farm’s pride of place with force of na­ture

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - A SPY’S LIFE -

Vis­it­ing the home of the world’s rarest pen­guin, Ti­jana Jak­sic sees why this prop­erty’s care­taker is so fired up

FOR a sec­ond I think I could be talk­ing to Steve Ir­win. There’s just some­thing about him. The way he talks, the look in his eyes – not a sin­gle word es­capes en­thu­si­asm. Pas­sion­ately shar­ing with us the prop­erty he’s worked so hard to trans­form into a con­ser­va­tion area, Perry Reid is the kind of man that, once you’ve met him you’ll never for­get. A well­known lo­cal to Dunedin’s Otago Penin­sula, Perry seems to be a bit of a well-kept se­cret in New Zealand’s South Is­land.

Jump­ing into the Argo, he hits the ac­cel­er­a­tor and off we go. “You guys are gonna love this!” Perry ex­claims.

With four oth­ers seated in the back of this open-air, eightwheel drive all-ter­rain ve­hi­cle, we’re tak­ing the Na­ture’s Won­ders tour around his prop­erty. With the khaki green colour blend­ing into the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, it feels much more like a sa­fari over his 650ha of head­land at the tip of the wilder­ness-rich Otago Penin­sula.

“The old­est per­son we’ve had in it is 103 and the youngest just five days old,” he calls out over the noise of the Argo.

“This is 3 ½ pounds on the ground – less than the hu­man foot­print. The sound mim­ics the break­ing of the ocean.”

While it cer­tainly doesn’t sound like waves from within the Argo, the loud churn­ing of the en­gine makes the ride all the more ex­cit­ing.

“Are you ready?” he asks, as he stops at the foot of a steep hill. Mak­ing it to the top in one easy go, we’re now over­look­ing the prop­erty, with the spec­tac­u­lar Otago Har­bour on one side and the Pa­cific Ocean on the other.

“You get a 760-de­gree view up here! Isn’t it amaz­ing? This is our home.”

Gen­er­a­tions of Perry’s fam­ily have lived here farm­ing the land, and it’s still a work­ing sheep farm. But Perry has been slowly buy­ing back more and more land to sup­port his dream of pro­tect­ing the na­tive wildlife.

“In a typ­i­cal day you’ll see one or two species of pen­guins – up to five in the right sea­son,” he says. “You’ll see fur seals ev­ery day of the year and a myr­iad of birdlife.”

It’s amaz­ing to think this all lies only 26km from the city cen­tre of Dunedin.

Tak­ing us back down the steep in­cline and along a dirt track, over cat­tle grids and through 10m-long pud­dles of mud, it’s also amaz­ing how smooth the ride is.

“If mud splashes on you then you can have your money back,” he as­sures us.

Hav­ing used Ar­gos for the past 15 years, he says wildlife num­bers have flour­ished since they stopped us­ing cars to get around the prop­erty.

We pull up just me­tres from a sun­bathing fur seal but it doesn’t even flinch. There are three oth­ers play­ing in the small pool of wa­ter be­side it, their flip­pers pok­ing out of the wa­ter as they roll and trace cir­cles

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