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Getting cracking: Ready to start work on a project to restore Lake Hayes are, from left, Friends of Lake Hayes chairman Mike Hanff, Mana Tahuna environmental projects manager Sarah Mukai, Department of Conservation community manager Eryn Hooper and Mana Tahuna chief executive Mike Rewi

By GUY WILLIAMS

A long-planned project to clean up Arrowtown’s Lake Hayes has received a massive cash injection.

Local iwi charity Mana Tahuna Charitable Trust has been granted $4.45 million over three years from the Department of Conservation (DoC) to restore the lake’s catchment.

Mana Tahuna CEO Mike Rewi says the trust, set up in June last year, doesn’t yet have a  long track record in conservation, so it’s grateful to DoC for ‘‘taking this leap with us’’.

Receiving $1m for the project from philanthropist Rod Drury late last year means it can hit the ground running, Rewi says.

The trust’s been working through a resource consent process, consulting with private landowners and recently employed a project manager, operations manager and two team leaders.

Recruitment for field workers should start next week.

‘‘That seed funding’s allowed us to do all the work behind the scenes that’s been going on until now,’’ he says.

‘‘We expect initially to employ a crew of about 15, and this will give them stability for the next three years.’’

Restoration plan: Mana Tahuna Charitable Trust’s been given $4.45 million to help clean up Lake Hayes, pictured in 2017

The presence of phosphorus from the historical use of fertilisers in the lake’s catchment has
caused frequent, toxic algal blooms that make it unsafe for recreational use by people and
dogs.

The trust will follow a blueprint by Arrowtown environmental science consultancy e3Scientific, commissioned by Friends of Lake Hayes last year.

It involves creating a 2.8-hectare wetland at the lake’s northern end, installing sediment traps at intervals along the lake’s tributary, Mill Creek, riparian planting, and possum, rat and stoat control.

Mana Tahuna’s receiving the lion’s share of nearly $8m in new funding for conservation projects in the Queenstown Lakes.

There’s a total of $17.5m for nine projects in Otago and Southland.

The money’s coming from DoC’s Kaimahi for Nature fund, a subset of the government’s $1.1 billion Jobs for Nature fund announced in last year’s Budget.

Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says the native species in the region ‘‘need all the help they can get’’, and the projects will help support communities hit hard by the tourism downturn.

Other Whakatipu funding recipients are the Southern Lakes Sanctuary Trust ($2.98m) and the Routeburn-Dart Wildlife Trust ($416,000).

The Southern Lakes Sanctuary aims to support more than 80 predator control projects across 150,000ha of the Southern Lakes in order to better protect 23 threatened and at-risk wildlife species from rats, possums, and mustelids.

A ‘‘rapt’’ trust chairman Greg Lind says it plans to use the funds for 39 full-time equivalent jobs over three years.

‘‘We’ve already got the planning in place, we’ve started advertising for positions, and we expect by Christmas we’ll have employed eight-to-10 staff,’’ Lind says.

It’ll then look to employ many of the field workers it needs to do the ‘‘grunt work’’.

Routeburn-Dart Wildlife Trust executive officer Geoff Hughes says it’s ‘‘very excited’’ about the funding, which will be used to employ six people on its stoat, possum and feral cat control in the Routeburn, Dart and nearby valleys over the next three years.

‘‘This is exciting for the community, the environment and the birds we want to protect,’’ Hughes says.

guy.williams@scene.co.nz