White Fronted Terns in flight-commonly found near Okarito River mouth

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Official launch of Birding West Coast Tuesday 21 July

New website to promote West Coast bird watching

Birding West Coast is being launched on the West Coast Tuesday 21 July and aims to get visitors staying longer in the region by promoting its unique bird-watching experiences.

The website, www.birdingwestcoast.co.nz, is the result of collaboration between four local businesses each offering tours to different birding experiences around Okarito.  The group was initiated under the Major Regional Initiative (MRI), a tourism project managed by Development West Coast.

Richard Saunders, whose ecotourism business Okarito Nature Tours features on the website, says a lot of birding enthusiasts come to New Zealand but not all of them know about the West Coast.

“We’re currently not on their “must-see” lists, but we should be because we have an amazing variety of birdlife in a most beautiful scenic area,” he says.

MRI project consultant Hugh Canard says bird-watching, or birding as it is also known, is a significant specialist area with growth potential on the West Coast

“The West Coast is home to more than 70 bird species, some existing only in this unique part of the world.” Hugh says. “The website www.birdingwestcoast.co.nz aims to promote our unique birding experiences and encourage people to stay here longer to enjoy them.”

Richard Saunders says the website will help raise the region’s profile and promote the unique birding opportunities on offer.

“Birders are pretty computer savvy and organise their trips from home in advance - it’s too late to target them when they get to New Zealand because they’ve already planned where they’re going,” he says. “This website will be the key to getting their attention.”

Hugh Canard says the average visitor stay on the West Coast is just 1.3 going nights.

“We want people to stay longer, have a richer experience and keep coming back for more at different times of the year. By its seasonal nature, birding offers those opportunities.”

Hugh says the internet is ideally suited to reach niche segments of the global tourism market. The website is an example of operators with limited resources using the technology to maximum effect.

The interactive website will target people with a special interest in birds and will be a comprehensive guide to birding on the West Coast. It will promote both the guided and non-guided bird watching opportunities in all three Districts of Buller, Grey and Westland, as well as provide links to other bird-watching sites in New Zealand.   

The project received funding from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and Development West Coast and has been supported by the Department of Conservation and Tai Poutini Polytechnic.

DOC technical support manager John Lyall says there is a vast range of easily accessible birding opportunities on the Coast. It would be great to see more people making the most of them.

“Along with guided tours, there are also plenty of places where people can go out on their own and enjoy our spectacular birdlife and special places,” John says.  “We take a lot of things for granted that visitors will really appreciate, like just being able to stop at a car park and see weka wandering around.”

The www.birdingwestcoast.co.nz website will be officially launched at the DOC i-SITE in Franz Josef Tuesday night. 

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