The Funding Journey – Helen Tickner

We’re currently in the throes of pouring concrete for our newest capital project at Pukaha – our $1.1 million dollar walk through aviary. It’s actually stage 4 of a capital improvement process commenced by the Pukaha Board over 6 years ago. Stage 1 was a new visitor centre, Stage 2 a new nocturnal house, egg nursery and theatre and Stage 3 the construction of new toilet facilities and waste management system.


Overall, the Board has spent around $3.8 million on these projects and the majority of the costs have been fully serviced through donations, grants and some serious ongoing fundraising activity. This post covers how we’ve funded all this investment and the learnings we’ve taken from it. 

Much of Pukaha’s success in achieving grant funding is that we’ve been in the game for some time and have recognised successes with breeding programmes and visitor engagement. We’ve got a sound track record. We have also been extremely fortunate to have staff members who know how to write good, clear and concise grant applications and do the followup with on-time and on-point project milestones. It’s about looking out for the funding opportunities, building relationships with funders and proving over time that their funds are being well spent.

Working with the local community is also really important to Pukaha. Wild promises are seen through pretty quickly, and some projects are easier to fundraise for than others. Our new toilet facilities were a pretty ‘unsexy’ proposition so we were pragmatic about who we approached for funding. The new walk through aviary was an easier sell to our local community – they could see something in it for themselves and were keen to contribute, and we engaged them actively in our vision.

We had a big win with a Lotteries application, but not without first being declined and having to do a lot of work to resubmit. We hadn’t addressed the criteria correctly and hindsight is wonderful. What this also forced us to do was to re-assess the project and we did some pretty serious thinking about why we were actually building the walk through aviary. We asked ourselves questions such as: ‘Is it for the visitors pleasure or for conservation values?’ and ‘Is it a combination of both, and what does that look like?’

While being declined was a blow at first, it was an excellent opportunity for us to re-examine the project from a number of different angles. We were not only much more clear and confident when we submitted our second request, the management team were re-energised about the project and what it would mean for Pukaha.

We’re very excited about the new walk through aviary. Our concept lies around the idea that when you are in the aviary, you are in a ‘bubble’ of the forest which lies just outside our 942 hectare forest. Our dream of restoring the Pukaha forest to its past glory, filled with birdsong, continues and we’ll be using the new aviary to share that dream with our visitors and local community.



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