Lug­gate park closer

Pro­posed recre­ation area gets a boost

Central Otago Mirror - - WANAKA NEWS - By CHE BAKER

A trust set up by well-know New Zealand busi­ness­man and phi­lan­thropist Gareth Mor­gan has pledged $30,000 to­wards the Lug­gate Bridge river park.

Wanaka river con­ser­va­tion­ist Lewis Ver­duyn-Cas­sels said he sent a plea for sup­port to the New Zealand Rivers Trust, part of of the Mor­gan Foun­da­tion, for sup­port.

Last week he re­ceived con­for­ma­tion from the trust that it would pledge $30,000 to the Red Bridge River Park Char­i­ta­ble Trust.

The red bridge trust hoped to buy river­side land along the Clutha River, for sale by Con­tact En­ergy, to build a river con­ser­va­tion park.

Foun­da­tion re­searcher Ge­off Sim­mons said Ver­duyn-Cas­sels’ ‘‘bizarre and unique’’ story caught the at­ten­tion of the trust.

‘‘It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing story in terms of the his­tory of that area,’’ Sim­mons said. Ver­duyn- Cas­sels has lived at a cot­tage on the prop­erty for 22 years and in that time his land­lords, first Works Prop­erty Trust and then Con­tact En­ergy, have been ab­sen­tee.

Ver­duyn-Cas­sels be­lieved his in­vest­ment in the prop­erty, which in­cluded clear­ing in­va­sive plants and ren­o­vat­ing the cot­tage, would amount to more than $100,000 over two decades.

The bridge trust was hop­ing to fundraise $230,000, to put an of­fer on the land, be­fore a dead­line of Oc­to­ber 21. So far $177,500 has been pledged to the cause.

Con­tact is ask­ing $300,000 for the prop­erty.

‘‘We are quite keen to put a bit of pub­lic pres­sure on Con­tact to drop the price, Sim­mons said. ‘‘It is a good cause.’’ He said it was hoped the pledge would help Con­tact to ac­knowl­edge the pub­lic in­ter­est in the project.

Fol­low­ing the pledge, Con­tact ex­tended the fundrais­ing dead­line from Au­gust 25 to Oc­to­ber.

Mor­gan, who set up the Rivers Trust with for­mer busi­ness part­ner An­drew Gaw­ith, is a keen en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and sup­ports ini­tia­tives to clean up New Zealand rivers.

The Mor­gan Foun­da­tion spon­sored the New Zealand River Awards in Novem­ber.

Lug­gate in­ter­est: New Zealand busi­ness­man and phi­lan­thropist Gareth Mor­gan.

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