Conservation group aims to build unity

Megan Williams.
Megan Williams.
A task force has been set up in Wanaka to create more co-ordination and collaboration between the dozens of groups each working on their own conservation projects.

Chairwoman of the newly formed Upper Clutha Conservation Taskforce, Megan Williams, this week told the Otago Daily Times the task force was the result of a public meeting in May held as part of the region's Shaping our Future process.

It was attended by various conservation groups ''just to try and get some vision and strategy around what people were doing and encourage more collaboration'', Ms Williams said.

Data collected from the meeting was being developed into the task force's terms of reference, and a ''draft vision'' was being formed using existing material as a starting point.

''We're just trying to think long-term and lead the groups to develop a shared vision,'' Ms Williams said.

Butterfields Wetlands next to the Hawea River, near Albert Town, had three different conservation groups working on it, ''which haven't actually agreed on what they want the place to look like in the future''.

One group was planting trees and another was planning to build a track.

There were also five groups working in the Matukituki Valley and ''they haven't really been collaborating''.

''So I believe since the meeting in May a group of them have got together ... It's just encouraging a little bit more collaboration there to get more done.''

Long term, everyone agreed on the need for ''pristine water and pristine air'', Ms Williams said.

But the question was how to ensure those things were achieved.

Asked about the prospect of another 1400 woodburners being installed in the proposed Northlake subdivision of Wanaka, Ms Williams said the task force would ''try and stay out of the political process at that level and really try to stay big-picture on conservation issues''.

''All we are looking at doing is leading a discussion with the Upper Clutha groups to develop a shared vision so that everyone can work together.''

It was hoped to have a conservation strategy prepared before the end of the year.

Already it seemed clear more water, soil and air monitoring needed to be undertaken.

''Whether that's done by volunteers or whether we do that by lobbying the local authorities - that's the type of action we will be hoping for.''

Data was needed to establish ''base lines, so that we know where we are at'', Ms Williams said.

The task force would not be taking over the roles of other conservation groups but would be complementing what they did.

Ms Williams, originally from Dunedin, has a background in tourism, and teaches sustainable tourism at the Queenstown Resort College.

The members of the task force are: John Wellington, Robbie Lawton, Anne Steven, Andrew Penniket, Calum MacLeod, Natalie Astin, Alexa Forbes and representatives from the Lake Wanaka Guardians and Department of Conservation.

mark.price@odt.co.nz