Construction of a world-class wildlife centre at Palmerston North’s Victoria Esplanade has officially begun.
Business owners, politicians and dignitaries gathered near the park’s duck pond on Friday to witness a sod-turning ceremony marking the symbolic opening of work on the Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery facility.
The centre, which will be New Zealand’s only native wildlife recovery facility, will include aviaries, an education centre and a physiotherapy ward.
It will be constructed by Kynoch Construction, which was awarded the tender for the $5.6-million project.
The centre is expected to be completed by early 2018.
At the ceremony, it was announced that the Central Energy Trust would grant an additional $250,000 for the ongoing maintenance of the facility.
Trust chairman Rod Titcombe said the contribution of $25,000 annually for the next 10 years would help keep the centre up and running.
The trust invested more than $2m in the centre because it would significantly benefit Palmerston North both economically and educationally, Titcombe said.
Palmerston North mayor Grant Smith said the centre would be the ’’jewel in the crown’’ of the Esplanade, which already offered great facilities.
Without the trust ‘‘stepping up to the mark’’ with funding, the project could have taken another 18 months to complete, Smith said.
Wildbase supervisor and wildlife technician Pauline Nijman said the centre would help to educate people about how to look after New Zealand’s wildlife.
Allowing the public to learn about individual birds when they visited would add an emotive element to the experience, she said. ‘‘You’ll see it in front of your eyes and it touches your emotions.’’
Hughes Joinery owner Cliff Hughes said he decided to contribute about $35,000 towards the centre as it would have a great impact on the community.
The centre would educate children and give people another affordable place to visit in the city, he said.
Hughes said he liked that people would be able to interact with veterinarians and animals in a central location.
Mayor Grant Smith, right, with Manu Kawana, left, from Rangitane, at Wildbase’s site.