Peacock Springs – creating birds from stones

The history of Peacock Springs Wildlife Park is a story of how, through twists of fate and the convictions and actions of inspired individuals, an environment can be transformed beyond anyone’s expectations – both as a visual landscape and in terms of its functions and purpose. It also challenges us on our assumptions about the polarity of the relationship between the “exploitation” and “conservation” of nature.

In the 1950s, Lady Diana Isaac and her late husband Sir Neil Isaac, founders of Christchurch company Isaac Construction Ltd, bought a house in Harewood, on the outskirts of Christchurch. Having grown up in the English countryside, Lady Isaac wanted to have a house with some land out in the country. However, after digging a lake to irrigate their garden they discovered the property had what Lady Isaac later described as “the worst land in Canterbury”, comprising mostly of shingle – perhaps not altogether surprising given its proximity to the Waimakariri River. But the shingle was found to be a very high quality and the Isaacs began commercial quarrying on the site in 1965, which continues today.

Over subsequent years Sir Neil and Lady Isaac purchased adjoining properties, cleared them of gorse and expanded the quarrying operations. Once they completed the quarrying of a site, they brought in topsoil and planted the quarried areas with native species, creating an environment with sheltered areas and shallow waterways – an ideal habitat for native birdlife.

In 1977 the Isaacs established the Wildlife Trust to breed endangered species on the 1000 hectare Peacock Springs Wildlife Reserve, part of the Isaac’s property in Harewood. Endangered species such as the black stilt, blue duck and the orange fronted kakariki are bred in this reserve and then, in collaboration with the Department of Conservation, reintroduced into the wild.  Peacock Springs is widely considered to be one of the best examples of quarry restoration in the world. [The above information from the Isaac Construction Company website].

Photo above left: Orange-fronted kakariki. Right: Lady Isaac on her Harewood property (Photos: Isaac Construction).

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