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In the wild: At Grants Farm in Frankton in June are Tourism Workforce Alliance workers, from left, Brandon van Lestra, Alex Sharp, Dan Fell, Alan Drage, Zoe Price and Dave Williams

By GUY WILLIAMS

Queenstown’s Tourism Workforce Alliance has reached the end of the road, with no immediate prospect of more work in the offing.

Since June, the group involved about 50 tourism workers, who had lost their jobs or were on reduced hours, working on fast-tracked environmental projects around the Wakatipu.

With logistical support from AJ Hackett Bungy, the workers chopped down wilding pines, broom and gorse, built bike trails, sprayed and weeded, spread mulch, planted natives and made predator traps at sites from Kingston to Pigeon Island.

Run as a pilot programme for the Department of Conservation’s $200 million ‘Kaimahi for Nature’ programme — a subset of the government’s $1.3 billion Jobs for Nature scheme — it was paid for with $250,000 from DoC and $70,000 from Queenstown’s council.

DoC Wakatipu ops manager Geoff Owen says the programme, which ended last week, has helped it figure out how to get tourism workers who need temporary secondary employment into environmental projects.

‘‘If we need to gear this up, or reinstitute it, we’ve already got the learnings about how to do it, and do it relatively well.’’

However, the programme’s been useful in creating the Southern South Island Alliance, made up of DoC, Otago Regional Council, Environment
Southland and Ngai Tahu.

It’s close to finalising a memorandum of understanding, he says.

‘‘Hopefully we’ll see that sooner rather than later.’’

It’ll look to match strong proposals for environment projects with funding, whether it’s central government funding or third parties.

The onus will be on community groups to make a convincing case for their project that ‘‘resonates’’.

Sustainability of employment and good social, cultural and nature outcomes will be key criteria, he says.

The Tourism Workforce Alliance’s project manager, Matt Hollyer, a senior manager at AJ Hackett, says the future of the tourism worker concept is in
DoC’s hands.

‘‘To a certain extent it’s softened the blow for those people who’ve gone through the shock of losing work; they’ve found something they could go and do, and they’ve been able to work out how to deal with the new reality.’’

About 15 of the workers have no immediate work to go back to.

The rest, meanwhile, have either gone back to their former employers, found new jobs, or their visas have run out, Hollyer says.

He’s keen to see the programme continue in some shape or form in the future.

‘‘We’ve said we’re happy to put our grunt in behind it.

‘‘We’ve had really good feedback … the community groups we were working with were really happy with what we achieved.

‘‘We’ve done a lot of work that volunteers couldn’t have done so quickly.’’

guy.williams@scene.co.nz