The na­ture of Meg’s work brings award

The Leader (Nelson) - - FRONT PAGE - CARLY GOOCH

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

PHOTO: MARTIN DE RUYTER/ FAIRFAX NZ

Na­ture­land di­rec­tor Meg Rut­ledge

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