Wānaka Sun       

Southern Lakes Sanctuary one step closer to investment

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 11 Jun, 2020 | By Pat Deavoll editor@thewanakasun.co.nz

The Southern Lakes Sanctuary is one step closer to becoming a reality after two days of intense meetings.

On June 4, a collective of trapping community groups who comprise the Southern Lakes Sanctuary network, met with Ed Chignell, CEO of Predator Free 2050 Ltd. to present their case for a landscape-scale predator eradication project for the Queenstown-Wānaka district. The group is seeking $19.6 million from Predator Free 2050. 

On June 5, they continued their meetings with potential co-funders from Queenstown Lakes District Council, Otago Regional Council and Central Lakes Trust. They are seeking $10.4 million of co-funding; bringing the five-year project cost to $30 million. 

The trapping groups came together to form Southern Lakes Sanctuary. This non-profit public-private partnership aims to eradicate possums, stoats, and rats from 660,000ha of the local terrain to protect endangered native wildlife species and habitats. 

The opportunity for the project to go from a blue-sky wish list to a realistic possibility was a direct result of coronavirus which has decimated the local economy. Predator Free 2050 developed a five-year economic stimulus package for predator eradication around New Zealand. The Southern Lakes Sanctuary was borne out of a response to that package which is a win-win for the environment and the economy. 

The Sanctuary aims to transform the region's environmental identity into a wildlife sanctuary while providing approximately 100 jobs over the next five years. 

Chignell was optimistic at Thursday's meeting.

 "I'm looking for a bit more detail regarding the proposal just to make sure the capability and capacity to deliver on the project is there," he said. "I think they are competent, and I think there's just going to be a bit of fine-tuning in how we put the final project together, but it's got a lot of potential."

Project implementation will be fast-tracked to get people into jobs as quickly as possible.

"There's no reason why it shouldn't happen within a couple of months but also no reason it shouldn't happen quicker, provided we get all of the information we need," he said. 

Mayor of Queenstown Lakes District Council, Jim Boult, said; "I met with Southern Lakes Sanctuary and Predator Free 2050 last Friday and I feel optimistic that this project not only benefits our environment but will provide employment for locals impacted by coronavirus. The proposal aligns well with QLDC's work in both spaces, and we are very interested in supporting its progress. I'm looking forward to getting people into work on this legacy project as soon as possible."

Leslie Van Gelder, executive officer of Whakatipu Wildlife Trust who has spearheaded the proposal said, "We are excited we've got to this point. We are also delighted at the support from Predator Free 2050, which is encouraging us to be bolder than we would have otherwise been."

Read edition 978 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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