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The Central Otago Ecological Trust, which aims to save the Otago skink from extinction, has taken top honours at the TrustPower Central Otago District Community Awards, announced in Cromwell last night.
The trust, with about 100 volunteers, is responsible for the Mokomoko Dryland Sanctuary near Alexandra which houses native lizard and plant species within a specially built predator-proof fence. It hopes to extend the current 0.3ha area to a 14ha reserve.
TrustPower community relations representative Jess Somerville said the group had worked worked hard to raise the profile of biodiversity conservation in Central Otago.
"The local community has been involved every step of the way, and with no paid workers, these volunteers are vital to its success.
"This group fills an important void in Central Otago for people to get involved in biodiversity work in the area and we wish to congratulate them on their significant success so far."
For winning the supreme award, the trust received $1500 prize money and will represent Central Otago at the national community awards in the Bay of Islands in March.
The winner of the heritage and environment section, which was won by the Central Otago Ecological Trust last year, was Teviot Valley 2007 Society Inc.
The society's award was given for capturing and celebrating 150 years of Teviot Valley history.
The health and wellbeing award went to Promote Dunstan, the group behind the Clyde Wine and Food Festival, among other things.
Miss Somerville said the group had taken the festival from its humble beginnings to the "premiere wine event in Otago".
The Central Otago District Arts Trust, which has a goal of turning the Central Otago district into a national and international arts destination, took the arts and culture prize.
The sports and leisure prize went to the Millers Flat Swimming Pool Committee which manages and maintains the pool. A coal-fired boiler, which keeps the pool at 28degC, was recently installed there.
Cromwell Girl Guiding took the educational and youth development award for raising $12,000 to send six girls and four leaders to the Jamboree in Rotorua this year.
The TrustPower Central Otago Youth Community Spirit Award was also presented at the ceremony last night.
Miss Somerville said all secondary schools in the district had been asked to nominate one year 13 pupil to be considered for the award to recognise their service to the school and community.
The winner was Dunstan High School's head boy Ged Finch.
Miss Somerville described him as the "consummate all-rounder who is very committed to his school and wider community".
He received $500 with his award, $250 of which will be given to the Alexandra SPCA on his behalf.