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MenardsNZ Ecosanctuary

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

Nestled at the base of the Ben Ōhau mountain range, Amy and Jason Menard's eco passion project offers guests a unique accommodation experience that is truly world class.

"At Amy’s cottage, we become synonymous with nature. When you look outside the cottage the feeling is so spiritual, full of solitude and inner peace."

In 2004, after a coffee stop enroute further South, Amy and Jason Menard were struck by the beauty and potential of Twizel. They knew they wanted to invest in a piece of land for their future so, after a bit of Googling and a lot of traipsing around plots of land on Manuka Terrace, the Menards found a place to call home.

"We just hit on the section we have now because it has a bit of elevation," Amy said. "It's really cool to have that ability to look out at the land. It also had a lot of trees, which we loved at the time, not realising they were actually wilding pines."

These wilding pines, or wilding conifers, are invasive weeds that threaten to permanently alter the unique landscapes of Aotearoa New Zealand. Since 2011, the Menards have been working to eradicate the invasive trees from their land."We are now free of pinus contorta, the worst of the wilding pines," Amy proudly said.

Along with their neighbour, the Menards also formed a landcare group and received a grant from Environment Canterbury to build rabbit-proof fencing around their property which has made a huge difference to their land. "Even just a handful of rabbits can really decimate what you've planted within just 24 hours," Amy said.

Rather than using poison to control the remaining rabbit population, Amy and Jason employ Jim's Bunny Hunters, a cost-effective and environmentally friendly method of pest control. Dogs and specially-trained ferrets are used to locate and kill the rabbits in what Amy describes as "quite a visceral experience" but for a small block of land it is better than using poison.

This is the kind of work the couple, along with their three children, have been doing on their 10-acre section to make it a sustainable, future-proofed environment for their whānau, and their guests.

Having both grown up in the country, Jason in rural Wisconsin, and Amy "in the bush" on the West Coast of Te Waipounamu, the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand, the idea for creating an ecosanctuary was one that came naturally. "It's a passion project for us because of the way we were brought up," Amy said. "Our parents were into a lot of natural things: they didn't use poisons, they were into wholefoods, composting, making their own clothes - it just rubbed off on us.

"It just makes total sense to us; it's just the right way to do things to live in harmony with nature."

"Wow, we were ready to move into this modern and serene cottage. Well designed indoor and outdoor spaces gave the perfect balance of cozy meets spacious."

Thanks to Amy and Jason's harmonious bond with nature, their land is largely pest animal and pest plant free, which, as Amy explained, allows native plants, birds, and insects to thrive in their protected environment. It's not always what people expect it to look like, but it is a native environment that is true to the Mackenzie.

"When you think 'ecosanctuary' people think of super lush and green bush, but a lot of New Zealand natives are more subtle," Amy said. "It's mostly shades of brown, which is how it's meant to be here in the Mackenzie - it's a lot of mānuka, matagouri, and hebes.

"We also have a lot of different birds that come and go, depending on the time of year. And, interestingly enough, the insect life is really cool; we see that coming into spring and through summer. There's a huge variety of insects and they're like these little unsung heroes because they're quietly doing a lot of work for us, like keeping the soil healthy and pollinating plants.”

MenardsNZ Ecosanctuary therefore offers a truly unique accommodation experience,

one in which guests can relax and connect with the earth and nature. For some international guests who live in large metropolitan areas, this is an opportunity they've never had before. "We’re really offering people the chance to connect with the natural world, which people don’t know they’re missing until they experience it," Amy said. "They can breathe in the pure air because there's minimal pollution; see the stars thanks to the lack of light pollution, and connect with the universe; drink pure water from our natural spring - it's all a chance to connect with the earth."

"Not only are Amy and Jason wonderful hosts, but the cottage is so thoughtfully designed and organized - and stargazing out of their wood-burning tub was incredible."

The environmentally-friendly and beautifully-appointed cottage has been designed to blend with the natural landscape and let the dramatic alpine views take centre stage. Inside is two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a dining room. Outside is a wood-fired hot tub filled with pure, untreated water from the Menards own spring where you can spend your evenings admiring the beauty of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. Stargazing is one of the main reasons guests come to stay and Amy and Jason are helping to protect the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve (AMIDSR) by following the principles of good outdoor lighting: only light what you need, when you need it, as bright as you need it. They’ve applied for the AMIDSR’s dark sky friendly scheme and will be certified soon.

Guests are also invited to enjoy the Retro Garage, a communal recreational space complete with a record player, board games, a retro art museum, and views of the property with the Benmore range in the distance - plus much more.

To join Amy and Jason at their Ecosanctuary, visit It's time to embrace a more sustainable future.

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