Wānaka Sun       

Red Bridge RIver Trust announce public meeting

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 11 Jun, 2020 | By Joanna Perry newsdesk@thewanakasun.co.nz

After launching a fundraising campaign in May for the balance of a five-year-old land purchase from Contact Energy, The Red Bridge River Park Trust has set up a public meeting to be held on June 18 at the Hāwea Flat Hall. 

The Red Bridge River Park Trust was created in 2014 by Lewis Verudyn-Cassells, who passed away in August 2019, to create and manage a river park and native recovery centre on riverside land by the Luggate red bridge.

Lewis negotiated for the Trust to purchase a property with a cottage, garden and nursery from Contact Energy in April 2015, with a donation of $149,000 from the Verudyn-Cassells family securing the deposit. The balance of $151,000 to finalise the sale was due for payment within five years. The deadline, initially June 2, has now been extended by one month - but the Trust's Givealittle page has raised just $1,909 of the funds required so far.

Trustee Jeromy Van Riel said that he was unaware of the financial situation of the trust until Verudyn-Cassell's death, when he became the only remaining trustee.

“When Lewis passed away in October last year, I didn't realise that I was still a trustee. In fact, the only trustee,” he said. “The house and acre section were at risk of being taken back by Contact Energy because the Trust had not raised the last $151,000 to pay the total sum. Despite our somewhat casual meetings, Lewis didn't divulge this to me.” 

According to Van Riel, Verduyn-Cassles was a "'prickly visionary' who really believed in preserving mankind and our connection to ourselves, our place and our community.”

With the support of a lawyer and two new trustees, he has decided to “salvage this trust, to better provide both services to the community and uphold the trust's vision of keeping the Clutha River a pristine environment that the whole community can enjoy.” 

The trust is urgently seeking funding to support this vision.

“We wish to hold workshops, share the use of our space and support you in your projects that fall in line with our purpose. We (the trustees) believe in the benefit of the trust for scientific, humanitarian, educational, health and environmental communities/groups and are aware that, if the trust does not protect this property, it may become another luxury home on the river.”

Van Riel acknowledged that it seemed unlikely the trust would raise the required sum, and that the trustees were prepared to take a loan out if required.

“$31,000 will give us the deposit for a bank loan. Givealittle is the place to donate and fundraise for causes and charities online,” he said.

Van Riel extended his appreciation to those who had donated so far: “although we have only a small part of what we need, we appreciate your belief in us.”

The trust's first meeting on June 18 is open to anyone with an interest in, or questions about, the trust. It will start at 7pm at the Hāwea Flat Hall.

Read edition 978 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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