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Kaki Visitor Hide

Kaki, black stilt,
visitor hide,  (1st page)
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Kaki Visitor Hide
Photographs courtesy: Kaki Visitor Hide

As well as being the only place in the world where you are guaranteed of seeing the black stilt, the Twizel area and Mackenzie Basin’s braided shingle rivers are home to many other rare and interesting birds which include wrybill, banded dotterel and black fronted tern.

Guided tours of the Kaki Visitor Hide offer an opportunity to see kaki and learn about their ecology and conservation. The hide is adjacent to the captive breeding centre and overlooks aviaries where kaki pairs are held. A display aviary next to the hide enables a close-up kaki encounter.

The hide is open from end October to mid-April only and the tours cost $20/adult and $10/first child (all others free).

The area has one of the world’s cleanest, driest and darkest skies, and has long drawn astronomers to Twizel and the surrounding area, with several existing astro-tourism ventures, such as at Lake Tekapo and Omarama catering to their needs, while two additional observatories are in development; one in Twizel, the other at Lake Ohau.

Before the white settler came, coastal Maori used to migrate to the Basin for the summer. They quarried stone and hunted moa. There is evidence that the Basin was once covered with Totara Forest.

European pioneers moved to the area in the 1850s and began extensive grazing of sheep and cattle. The Mackenzie Country is named after New Zealand’s most famous outlaw: James Mackenzie, a sheep rustler who, along with his sheep dog Friday, was accused of sheep stealing. He was finally captured in 1855, and after a series of escapes and increasing illness, he was released in 1856 and promptly disappeared forever.

Sited on land once part of Ruataniwha Station, Twizel was constructed as the base for the Upper Waitaki Power Development. This scheme was the largest hydro project ever undertaken in New Zealand. Started in 1968 and completed 18 years later.

Twizel’s layout is based on a Scandinavian concept used first in New Zealand at Mangakino and modified at Otematata — base for the Benmore and Aviemore power projects in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

(page last updated  12 January 2013)