A New Zealand eco-lodge, in the idyllic Marlborough Sounds, is leading the way with a conservation action that has recycled 32,700 glass bottles into glass sand that’s now used to maintain surrounding forest paths and weed control. Over the past 18 months, Lochmara Wildlife Recovery and Arts Centre has saved a 32-cubic metre mountain of glass from the landfill, contributing to a 70% reduction in the volume of waste leaving the boat-access only property.
The saving is part of a new on-site recycling programme at Lochmara, and an example of how one small tourism business can make an appreciable difference to an environmental problem.
The award-winning lodge, which has been nationally recognised for its innovation and conservation efforts, operates a wildlife recovery programme that is funded through art sales and visitor entry fees.
The most recent conservation programme is a combination of some of the newest and the oldest of recycling technologies.
In late 2010, Lochmara invested in new glass crushing technology which converts glass bottles into glass sand. The resulting sand is an inert and safe material that is used for maintenance on Lochmara’s walking tracks and spread to combat weed growth in the regenerating native bush and garden areas.
Vegetable gardens, fruit orchards, and water resources all benefit from the second initiative - composting and mulching cardboard and putrescible waste.
Around a cubic metre of packaging weekly is turned into compost and mulch for the vegetable gardens and fruit trees for soil health and to retain moisture in the soil, reducing the need for irrigation.
The sight of rubbish piled up on a barge has been “a powerful motivation to find ways to bring that volume down,” according to Lochmara owner Shayne Olsen.
“Reducing the volume of our waste is something we can all do as businesses and individuals. We’ll keep looking for new ways to do better,” Olsen said.
The new programmes are complemented by a range of existing waste reduction efforts. One of the most popular are the kunekune - or Captain Cooker pigs - and free-range chickens that take care of all the kitchen waste, providing a real-life model of sustainability for visitors as well as happy pigs and free range eggs for the cafe.
The remaining waste is removed from the property by barge. Rubbish day came just three times in the past 12 months, a record low since opening Lochmara Café in 2007. Further initiatives are planned for the coming year.
Conservation, art and luxury have proven a winning combination for Lochmara Lodge which is set in the pristine coastal environment of the Marlborough Sounds - on the north-eastern tip of New Zealand’s South Island, and accessible only by boat or walking track.
Owners Louise Bright and Shayne Olsen first established a backpackers’ accommodation at Lochmara 13 years ago, but since then their hard work and innovative ideas have transformed the property into a sought-after destination with a notable restaurant, lodge with 14 chalets, and the wildlife recovery and arts centre projects.
Paths wind through four and a half hectares of native bush, past an art studio, sculptures and artworks, the peaceful hammock haven, and wildlife refuges for New Zealand natives - birds such as kakariki and weka, a colony of curious weta (a giant crawling insect), gecko and many others.
The lodge won the Conservation in Action category at the 2010 NZ Tourism Industry Awards.
Looking back over the past 13 years, Louise Bright says: “We are still wowed by what we have done at Lochmara, but so we’re so happy that others are wowed by it too.”
Lochmara has a natural advantage, Bright says, with its location in the stunning Marlborough Sounds, just 15 minutes by boat from Picton, or two hours walk along the popular Queen Charlotte Track from Mistletoe Bay.
“When they get here, people see all the different aspects of Lochmara. We are not just accommodation and a lovely restaurant. We are a total experience.”
Art and conservation
Art and conservation are integral to the fabric of Lochmara, allowing the owners to stay true to their environmental and community commitment, while giving their tourist destination a vital competitive edge.
A portion of all art sales and admission fees to the walkways, go directly into the trust funding the wildlife recovery centre. Working alongside the Department of Conservation, the centre breeds native species like kakariki for eventual release to predator free areas, and has a rehabilitation facility for injured native wildlife.
“It’s very satisfying knowing that our work here will make a difference. The opportunity for us as members of the public to work alongside the Department of Conservation is great. We think that Lochmara is an example of the progress that can be made when private groups are able to support the work of DOC and be involved actively in conservation and restoration work,” Shayne Olsen said.
Families and couples
Lochmara Lodge appeals to families, couples and independent travellers looking for a destination holiday, a weekend or a day out. The restaurant is a great attraction for Marlborough residents who arrive in their boats.
There are also day trips that allow more people the chance to enjoy this slice of paradise. The Bath House day trip includes lunch, a massage and an hour long soak in luxurious twin tubs overlooking the beautiful bay.
After many years of hard work, the owners say Lochmara Lodge has grown into the haven they dreamed it could be but there’s still development to come that will keep them busy for a long time.
“It’s about always evolving our business and making it even better tomorrow than it is today,” Bright said.