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Yesterday Associate Conservation Minister Nicky Wagner was in Dunedin to announce $475,000 in grants from the Community Conservation Partnership Fund to four projects, adding to the $200,000 announced last month for the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust.
''It's all about the people on the ground and you cannot get a better example than here, how absolutely passionate people are about this area,'' she said at Glenfalloch.
Orokonui Ecosanctuary's wildlife and that of its immediate area was the biggest winner, with $278,000 granted to the ecosanctuary itself and $52,000 for the Landscape Connections Trust which hopes to restore and enhance the area surrounding the ecosanctuary.
Chairman of the Otago Natural History Trust (which runs Orokonui) Neville Peat said it had always been part of the dream that the achievements of the ecosanctuary extended outside of its predator-proof enclosure.
''Hopefully, it is contagious and will inspire local communities. So we are delighted ... the Community Conservation Partnership Fund support us to this extent.''
The funding would mainly go help secure staff who were the cornerstone of the ecosanctuary's success, he said.
Landscape trust chairwoman Jinty MacTavish said the funding came at a critical time for the project, which aimed to restore and enhance biodiversity on 55,000ha of land across north Dunedin and East Otago, extending the ''halo'' effect of the ecosanctuary.
The funding would assist with planning and research into the distribution of bird life in the area and outreach with landowners.
Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group received $135,000 towards its continued work to eliminate possums from the peninsula.
Ms Wagner said the group led the way in removing pests and was a role model for other parts of the country.
''It's very easy to remove pests when no-one lives there but it's a challenge when you take pest management into where people live.''
Group chairman Brendon Cross said it would enable the group to start work on sector four - Portobello to Dunedin - 4500ha covering Department of Conservation and Dunedin City Council land, farmland and residential homes.
''We're very encouraged. This enables us to carry on the project. We have taken 7000 possums off the Otago Peninsula so far.''
The Herbert Heritage Group received $9000 for the restoration and enhancement of the Waianakarua River Mouth Wetlands Development Project.
Group representative Barbara Wing said it was a wonderful amount of money which would help the community and its volunteers of all ages continue its replanting work.
Doc conservation partnerships, eastern and southern South Island director Barry Hanson said applying for the funding had been a long and ''arduous'' process for the groups.
''For most groups this is the difference between surviving and success.''