Operational is not working

Conservation Minister Tama Potaka has deflected Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari’s plea for help.

Sanctuary Mountain – Maungatautari.

Conservation minister Tama Potaka

General manager Helen Hughes turned to Potaka for help in May, before revealing to The News last month that a cash flow crisis could force the closure of the world’s largest predator proof fence near Cambridge by the end of August.

The project lost $1.5 million worth of DOC funding over four years and needs $500,000 to continue providing predator-free habitat for rare and endangered native species like takahe, kiwi, and kākāpō.

Potaka told Stuff last week Hughes’ plea for help was a Department of Conservation (DOC) operational matter and the department was doing the best it could with a limited budget. DOC was directed to find 6.5 per cent savings from its budget to meet the coalition Government’s savings target.

Helen Hughes

“I am pretty disappointed by these words, because clearly operational is not working,” Hughes, who has been in the job nine months, said.

“Operational is not coming to the party, and operational is not making the commitment. We need central government to assist.”

Potaka’s press secretary Jaed Nicoll said “we don’t have a comment to make here, sorry… the best place to ask about this issue is the Department of Conservation.”

DOC Waikato district operations manager Jane Wheeler is looking at options to support the project.

Louise Upston

Karāpiro-based Minister for Community and Voluntary Sector Louise Upston, National MP for Taupō, said in a statement that she hoped a solution could be found.

“A lot of staff time and countless volunteer hours have gone into planning, building, and maintaining Maungatautari.

“The economy is going through a tough time right now, but this project got off the ground because of the vision, hard work, and generosity of donors. Those things still exist in the community.

“My colleague Barbara Kuriger is working with the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust Board to explore all options for support, including through the Department of Conservation.”

Barbara Kuriger

Kuriger accompanied Potaka to Maungatautari in May when he learned of its cash flow crisis.

Meanwhile, the project has received its first significant donation since going public about its cash flow crisis.

Len Reynolds Trust has funded several thousand dollars.

“We see this as an investment in an internationally recognised taonga with a proven track record,” said chief executive Melissa Gibson.

“That’s amazing,” Hughes said. “Absolutely incredible.”

Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is dropping admission fees for children over the school holidays, in the hope they will learn to love the place.

Children 16 years and under visiting the mountain must be accompanied by a paying adult with a $30 Sanctuary Explorer Pass.

“We are hoping that loads of families come to the sanctuary,” said Hughes.

“The parents will pay; they will come and experience and grow to love it and they want to return.”

Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari

Kiwi on Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari

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