Massive pond clean-up
Volunteers help their mate accomplish dream
Alexandra resident Hugh Clarke is the sort of man who hides in the back of photos and under a series of floppy sunhats.
However, the mates and work colleagues he rounded up to take on the rebirth of a rat and raupoinfested muddy waterhole, otherwise known as the Aronui Dam at Alexandra, are making sure their main man is going to take his fair share of the credit for making this community project happen.
Friend and supporter Ian Aitchison, who had put in many hours of free labour to clear the pond, couldn’t speak highly enough of Clarke.
‘‘This would never have happened without Hugh.’’
On sweltering hot days between Christmas and New Year, donated earth moving equipment and man-power showed up at the upper Bridge Hill eyesore, which was once a picturesque pond, for a major three-day working-bee coordinated by Clarke, who has lived in the area for about 30 years.
‘‘It started for me when I saw a picture of two locals (Joy Bennett and Judy Farris) at the pond, standing in a muddy mess of raupo,’’ Clarke, the now retired former owner of Alexandra business Benchmark Construction, recalled.
‘‘Everyone was upset about it, so I met with Ian and a few locals, and we started to bash around a few ideas.’’
He proved when there’s awill there’s a way, the result being a seed fund of $5000 to go towards the cost of fuel, equipment and labour to clear the pond.
In recent years, the former Alexandra water reservoir, built in 1909, had started to look like an outback Australian billabong in a drought, partly due to neglect as the raupo got more out of control, but mostly by design, because it needed to be drained to allow the swamp-dwelling plant to be cleared.
However, Clarke it wasn’t a simple matter of getting in there with a digger.
Clarke had to put together and present a comprehensive management plan, which outlined how the work would be funded and the pond maintained, also making provision for leaving 10 per cent of the existing raupo.
Once he got the go ahead, Clarke said it had been a major mission to organise a time when he could get enough people together to do the work, most of them working free of charge, on donated diggers, dozers and trucks. And the only three-day window was between Christmas and New Year.
Work included widening an island at the pond’s western end, originally created by Clarke when he moved into the area, for nesting bird-life, making a bigger parking area, and dam wall maintenance.
A local road metal company had provided a special sand mix, to make Alexandra’s first and only beach, Clarke said.
He had also taken care to leave a small pond intact for the ducks, until the entire area could be filled, which was due to start last week.
Quiet but determined: Hugh Clarke at the Aronui Dam, which has been a labour of love for the retired Alexandra resident and amajor community project, to clear raupo and refill the pond.