Riverside park would be 'ultimate in conservation'

Lewis Verduyn-Cassels.
Lewis Verduyn-Cassels.
A proposed riverside park near Luggate was ''the ultimate in community-based river conservation projects'' and worthy of regional council investment and support, a hearings panel was told yesterday.

Conservationist Lewis Verduyn-Cassels, of Wanaka, made a submission on the Otago Regional Council annual plan and asked the panel yesterday to support plans for the park.

The Red Bridge River Park would serve as a recreational area, an education destination, a research facility, a native plant nursery and a local history resource, he said.

It would be run by a trust. Mr Verduyn-Cassels, chairman of the Clutha Matau-Au River Parkway group, developed the park proposal with landscape architect Anne Steven and Luggate resident Graham Taylor.

The proposed park would cover about 2.75ha and comprise three properties, all of which were put on the market by Contact after it decided against further hydro-electricity development on the Clutha.

The three blocks had a combined rateable value of $1.17 million.

Mr Verduyn-Cassels leases one of the properties and the other two properties which would make up the park have been sold this month by Contact to undisclosed buyers.

He has first option to buy the land he leases and has until May 20 to exercise that option.

''We're somewhat limited by having lost those other two properties,'' he said.

However, the park proponents had not lost their ''vision'' and hoped in the future to be able to buy the other two properties and add them to the park.

They hoped to attract donations and sponsorship from people who wanted to be associated with ''the ultimate in community-based river conservation projects''.

Asked about the annual costs of the park, Mr Verduyn-Cassels said it would be minimal, as most of the work would be done by volunteers.

Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said he could not see what role the council would play and it might be more appropriate for other agencies to be approached for funding.

''I'm sure we might feel supportive of your project, but we'd need some sort of hook into it,'' he said.

Mr Verduyn-Cassels said the park would function as a freshwater management and research site, which fitted in with the regional council.

The park would construct habitats for the endangered longfin eel, rare indigenous plants, native birds and skinks.

The park trust would like the council's support in principle for the project, he said.

Panel chairman David Shepherd said that was something the council would cover when it discussed the submissions.

The panel reserved its decision.