Mas­sive pond clean-up

Vol­un­teers help their mate ac­com­plish dream

Central Otago Mirror - - CENTRAL NEWS - By MARY-JO TO­HILL

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.

Photo: MARY-JO TO­HILL 630351461

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.

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