Farm’s pride of place with force of nature
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