$1.25m boost for sanctuary

A $1.25 million lottery grant today has put Nelson's Brook Waimarama Sanctuary Trust within $200,000 of its $4.7m project to build a 14.4 pest-proof perimeter fence.

Brook Waimarama Sanctuary Trust chairman Dr Dave Butler said there was elation from the trust over the Lottery Grants Board award of $1.25m, which would be echoed by the huge group of volunteers and supporters of the project.

"This is a ringing validation of the Brook Sanctuary's national significance, and an affirmation of the trust's vision and robust planning," he said. "It also recognises all the hard work members have put in towards realising the vision and the strong support for the project from our strategic partners and from the wider community."

Dr Butler said the $1.25m grant gets the sanctuary to "within arms reach" of starting construction on the pest-proof fence, but the trust was firm in its resolve to build the fence without incurring debt.

"There is now just a $200,000 gap left to reach our $4.7m target and we have other major funding applications already lodged and being prepared," he said. "We'll also be stepping up the ‘Get Behind the Fence' campaign."

Dr Butler said if the Nelson community, the top of the south region, and the nation as a whole maintained their support he was confident there would be a start on the fence construction by the middle of this year.

Nelson MP Nick Smith, who is also the conservation minister, supported the grant application to the Lottery Significant Projects Fund, writing a letter in November saying it was "a hugely significant, community-led conservation project in my electorate".

He said the project addressed biodiversity loss which was New Zealand's most serious environmental issue, that he was impressed with the highly professional approach to the project, and that the trust had achieved widespread support from a region with strong divisions.

It was significant that the Nelson and Tasman councils, who often disagreed, had jointly committed $1.33m to the fence project, he said.

Funding commitments had also come from other organisations and the trust had a team of about 300 volunteers and 900 members.

Dr Smith said today: "This 700ha pest-free sanctuary is an iconic Nelson project that will restore the dawn chorus of native birds for our city.

"It can only be achieved with strong support from council, Government and the community. This grant is the crucial step required to get this project under way. I'm delighted the Lottery Grants Board has recognised the merits of this project and I applaud them for their decision."