A Sanctuary For Golfers And Wildlife

Wairakei International Golf Course was already rated one of the top courses in the world when owner Gary  ane decided to make it even more special.

His vision was to create an environment where golf and the  atural habitat work in harmony. He wanted a pest-free environment within the golf course so that  hreatened species could be introduced and the existing flora and fauna be allowed to flourish.

To achieve this, the 150ha course at Taupo has been encircled with a 5 kilometre-long, 2 metre-high pest-proof fence at a cost of $1.5 million to keep out undesirables such as cats, dogs, rats, mice, possums,  rabbits and stoats.The fence, built by Xcluder Pest Proof Fencing Company, is stainless steel mesh fixed to posts and topped with a COLORSTEEL® hood. Xcluder’s general manager, Dr Tim Day, says COLORSTEEL® was chosen because of its durability and the fact that it was hard for pests to gain a purchase on it. “It’s the same principal as putting a band of metal around a tree,” he says.

The 300mm COLORSTEEL® cap extends out from the fence and slopes down before curving under to stop pests from scaling the fence, which at 2 metres high is too tall for them to jump over.

The stainless steel mesh goes about 50mm into the ground and extends about 400mm out from the fence to confuse pests trying to dig their way in.

Dr Day says the golf course fence had “slightly higher aesthetic requirements” than fences they had built around farms or reserves. The posts used were landscape rounds and aluminium rather than timber joinery gave the fence are smarter look in keeping with the status of the golf course. The mesh and hood are in ‘Karaka Green’ to help the fence blend with the environment.

Automated gates mean there is little chance for pests to sneak in as staff and golfers enter and leave the golf course. A surveillance system also lets staff know if a gate is stuck open or a tree has come down on the fence.

Dr Day says Xcluder began 11 years ago when a farmer came to him wanting a fence that would protect his plantings from pests – word got around about the fence and the company snowballed from there. It is now involved in projects in New Zealand and overseas such as protecting farms, wildlife reserves and grain storage sites from pests.

Once the fence went up, Dr Day says the next step was ridding the golf course of pests inside it and doing some clearing of scrub before re vegetating with plants that provide the right sort of habitat and food for resident species such as bellbirds, tui, pheasant and quail. Introducing water fowl and fallow deer are options that might be considered in future. “It’s also not inconceivable that kiwis might be there one day,” says Dr Day. “The Department of Conservation is screaming out for places to put kiwis and talks are underway to make it happen.” The existing lake on the 18th hole has also been enlarged to create a wetland area.

Wairakei’s golf course superintendent, Nigel Lloyd, said the fence had positive spin-offs for wildlife and the golf course. There were no rabbits digging up fairways anymore and it was noticeable that more birds were feeding on the ground since the fence went up. Nigel says talks are underway with DOC and local Iwi about introducing kiwi but creating the right habitat first was vital.

“I take my hat off to Gary for having the foresight to look at the idea of creating a sanctuary,” says Nigel. “It was due to his passion for ecology and the desire to provide a better environment than the one we already had here.”

A consequence of building the fence, though, was the need to keep car parking and golf club services outside its perimeter to reduce the risk of pests sneaking in or being transported inside. The existing clubhouse was left on site but outside the fence there is a new building designed to house about 80 golf carts plus changing rooms, a pro shop and cafe/bar. With this in place, golfers can ready themselves for play before entering the course through one of the automatic gates in the pest proof fence.

Neville King, of Rosetta Stone Arkitektur, was charged with designing a building that would be distinctive - in looks and materials - from the three private lodges and clubhouse already on site.

“Gary wanted anything but a copy of what was on site,” says Neville, who had designed two of the three lodges on the course. “So, three strong architectural elements were chosen: Roofing Industries’ ColorCote® Eurostyle roofing, Peter Fell-coloured, bandsawn board-faced precast concrete panels and dark stained bandsawn cedar shiplap.

“The longrun ribbed roofing was overlaid on ply and that gives it some great shadowing effects - and, again, that hadn’t been used on site before,” Neville says.

The almost 700sq m building’s prominent position beside State Highway One and the fact that is was just inside the stone gate entrance to the course means “it’s the course’s opening statement so it couldn’t just be any old building”, says Neville. “It had to reflect the course’s intention of being top class and reflect its new direction as a sanctuary,” he says.

The interior fit-out was also part of that ‘opening statement’ to visitors, with polished concrete floors and exposed steelwork in the pro shop and café suggesting an industrial look that is lightened with an area of timber flooring and a whitewashed cedar sarked ceiling. A feature wall of copper panelling also provides a point of interest in the pro shop, and copper panelling is used again on the face of the bar. An enclosed patio protected from the elements by folding glass doors and a LouvreTec roof provides another seating area for bar patrons.

Even the cart shed has an enviable finish, with a suspended tiled ceiling, coloured concrete walls and polished concrete floors. Before these developments Wairakei already offered a spectacular golfing  experience but that is now going to be complemented with a greater awareness and enjoyment of the natural habitat.

Rosetta Stone Arkitektur

Building Design: Rosetta Stone
Arkitektur, Taupo,
Telephone: 07 378 9436.

Builder: C J Fisher Builders, Taupo,
Telephone: 07 377 0142 or
0274 933 607.

Roofer: J R Roofing, Taupo,
Telephone: 021 404 902.

Roofing manufacturer:
Roofing Industries, Taupo,
Telephone: (07) 376 7971,

Roofing: Colorcote® Eurostyle
Colour: ‘Ironsand’
Fence capping: COLORSTEEL® in
‘Karaka Green’

Fence construction: Xcluder Pest
Proof Fencing Company, Rotorua,
Telephone: 07 349 4505.