Money needed to save river property

Park pro­posed in­cludes na­tive plants, loop track and and pic­nic area

Central Otago Mirror - - WANAKA NEWS - By CHE BAKER

Al­most half the funds needed to pur­chase a $300,000 property near Lug­gate for a pro­posed river park have been raised but a dead­line looms to find the re­main­der.

River con­ser­va­tion­ist Lewis Ver­duyn-Cas­sels said he had given $140,000 of the funds needed to pur­chase a 0.4 ha property at the Lug­gate Red Bridge from Con­tact En­ergy to build the park.

How­ever, all the funds must be raised be­fore July 21.

Ver­duyn-Cas­sels said it was a ‘‘day by day bat­tle’’ but he was ask­ing for people to do­nate and sup­port the cause.

‘‘It’s a bit of a tall ask . . . At the mo­ment I’ve gotmy fin­gers crossed.

‘‘The usual fund agencies take a long time and there just isn’t the time for that,’’ he said.

The pro­posed park would in­clude a na­tive plant restora­tion project, loop track, pic­nic area, longfin eel habi­tat and it was hoped it would be an ex­am­ple of best prac­tice for sus­tain­able man­age­ment for river con­ser­va­tion.

Ver­duyn-Cas­sels was at a stale­mate with Con­tact En­ergy over the property, where he has lived for the past 22 years, but the com­pany gave him a life­line to form the trust and raise funds to pur­chase the land af­ter he re­quested an ur­gent post­pone­ment of its plan to sell the property.

Last week the Red Bridge River Park Trust was of­fi­cially reg­is­tered as a char­i­ta­ble trust.

The trust was struc­tured to en­sure the park’s op­er­at­ing costs, main­te­nance and im­prove­ments were self-funded through the lease of the on-site cot­tage where Ver­duyn-Cas­sels lives.

Ver­duyn-Cas­sels would work for the trust un­der the lease agree­ment.

The other trustees were ar­chae­o­log­i­cal con­sul­tant and project man­ager Matthew Sole, lim­nol­o­gist and fresh­wa­ter ecol­o­gist Marc Schal­len­berg, teacher and ed­u­ca­tion li­ai­son Jeromy van Riel and alpine guide and safety specialist Ben­jamin Yates.

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