Funding boost: Southern Lakes Sanctuary (SLS) Whakatipu hub coordinator Bonnie Wilkins, left, with philanthropist Sir Michael Hill and SLS project director Paul Kavanagh

Possum trapping at Arrowtown’s Bush Creek’s about to be super-charged, thanks to an initial $90,000 donation by a prominent local family.

Businessman and philanthropist Sir Michael Hill and his family have given the money to conservation organisation Southern Lakes Sanctuary (SLS) to support the installation of another 60 high-tech New Zealand-made AT 220 predator-control traps.

The traps, which have AI cameras and remote monitoring systems, will be installed in the Bush Creek catchment area this summer.

The funding also includes AI-enabling upgrades to the 25 existing AT 220 traps in the area, which have killed 3000 possums since they were installed.

Hill says it’s ‘‘fantastic’’ to support a project and an organisation making such dramatic progress to enhance the area’s natural environment.

‘‘We look forward to helping the Southern Lakes Sanctuary continue this incredible work for years to come.’’

Additionally, the Hill family’s making their private golf course, The Hills, available to SLS to host a fundraising golf day on April 22 — more details about that will be released soon.

SLS is one of NZ’s largest conservation organisations, comprising a consortium of six groups, representing 84 community groups, landowners, and businesses, working to increase biodiversity, control predators and protect the Southern Lakes’ native species.

Its project director Paul Kavanagh says the team’s hugely grateful to the Hill family for their contribution.

‘‘Without the generous support of the Hill family, the scale of the trapping network and the outcomes we have achieved would not have been possible.

‘‘With the removal of so many possums and rats from the Bush Creek area, along with the expanding network on the face of Coronet Peak, we know that the future for native trees and wildlife is a whole lot brighter.’’

He says the hope for Predator Free 2050’s inextricably linked to technological advances, and SLS has become experts in the effective deployment of automatic traps.

Their potential for large-scale improvements to the natural environment is ‘‘phenomenal’’.

‘‘Whilst the set-up costs for this very effective trapping method is relatively high, the ongoing maintenance and servicing of these traps is very low, so over the life of the trap the returns on investment are far superior to traditional traps and far more effective.’’

Initially supported by the former government’s Jobs for Nature programme — which faces a funding cliff in June — SLS is seeking $1.5 million annually to sustain its crucial conservation work.

‘‘We have many more areas that we can work on around the Whakatipu and Wānaka where the suppression of rats and possums will make a huge difference to the survival of our native species,” Kavanagh says.

‘‘We welcome other supporters embracing the cause as well — there is still so much important work to be done in saving our native taonga.’’

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