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A conservation conversation: Conservation groups from around the Southern Lakes are meeting this week at Cardrona to workshop their projects

By LUCY WORMALD

A New Zealand-first conservation hui’s underway at Cardrona Alpine Resort this week.

Facilitated by local conservation consortium Southern Lakes Sanctuary (SLS), ‘The  Conservation Standards Workshop’ has put Queenstown Lakes conservation groups, district and regional council reps, Department of Conservation, and national conservation organisations in the same room to determine a united conservation vision for the Southern Lakes.

SLS project director Paul Kavanagh says they’re also hoping to produce ‘‘actionable goals and outcomes’’ for conservation groups.

The workshop’s built around ‘conservation standards’ — an internationally-used set of principles for project design and management that ensures ‘‘you can do conservation better’’.

Monday saw 85 reps from groups like Whakatipu Reforestation Trust, Mana Tahuna Charitable Trust, Wai Wānaka, Forest & Bird, and Whakatipu Wildlife Trust present their
projects, while the remainder of the week’s a ‘‘deep dive into groups to really get our operational plans for the future’’.

Another key focus is strengthening projects’ engagement strategies and ‘‘collective impact’’, Kavanagh says, while managing increasing workloads for volunteers is a major challenge.

Groups often work with ‘‘a duck approach — heads down, bums up’’, but conservation standards’ model allows everyone to take a look at the bigger picture, and encourages collaboration, resulting in more cohesion, he says.

“A lot of the time, you end up kind of working in a silo and you might not be aware of what other groups in your district are doing.

“So if this can facilitate our groups discussing with their neighbours what projects they’re doing, and how they can work together, and create those synergies between groups … it leads to a much more cohesive and efficient strategy.”

Seeing the ‘‘enthusiasm and passion in the room for both our project and the district … the turangawaewae, the sense of belonging and pride and place is so humbling and motivating’’.

The workshop, supported by The Nature Conservancy, RealNZ, Queenstown’s council, Otago Regional Council and the US Embassy and Consulate, finishes today.

lucy.wormald@scene.co.nz