The nature of Meg’s work brings award
Meg Rutledge received a very important email last year – an email that recognised her contribution to the community.
It was an email notifying Rutledge she had received the Kiwibank Local Hero Award.
Three years ago Rutledge and her husband Mike adopted Tahunanui’s Natureland Zoo at a time when it was on the verge of being shut down. Thanks to Rutledge’s leadership and passion for animals, the zoo has gained the community’s support with a five per cent growth in visitors each year.
Rutledge said when they took over the Natureland wildlife trust, there were only 43 annual memberships. Now, there’s more than 700.
‘‘That’s a good indication that people are enjoying Natureland and what it’s doing.’’
Rutledge said Natureland’s waning support in the past was due to the site’s neglect, lack of animal welfare and poor facilities. She and her team quickly turned their attention to upgrading the zoo and ensuring the animal’s welfare was up to standard.
Rutledge has spent her life studying animals, with a focus on the role of zoos and conservation which is reflected in Natureland’s culture.
‘‘It’s all been welfare and con- servation, those are the things that people care about when they go to see animals.’’
Rutledge said a lot of animals at the zoo were part of breeding programmes.
Last year Natureland signed a memorandum of understanding with groups, including the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary and Project Janszoon, an initiative to restore the ecology of the Abel Tasman National Park.
The Kiwibank Local Hero Award is part of the 2017 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards.
There were 12 local heroes from the Nelson/Tasman region who were acknowledged on December 10 and honoured with a medal. The award recognised those who provided a positive contribution to their region, town, suburb or community.
Rutledge said it’s a ‘‘beautiful’’ medal.
‘‘I was honoured.’’
She said the achievement could be attributed to not only herself, but her whole team.
‘‘People are seeing Natureland as an asset to the community again, that’s probably the biggest reward to be honest.’’ really, really
Natureland director Meg Rutledge