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SIMON.HENDERSON

@alliedpress.co.nz

A new research and education facility in Wanaka will ‘‘raise the profile’’ of the need for better water management.

The Upper Clutha Lakes Trust signed a lease with the Otago Regional Council last week for an unused building at its Riverbank Rd site to establish the Alpine Lakes Research and Education Centre (Alrec).

Trust secretary Julie Perry said the site would be ‘‘incredibly valuable’’ for collaborative projects including citizen science, students, tertiary institutes and researchers from New Zealand and overseas.

‘‘It’s an excellent site and it will be perfect for what we are trying to do.’’

The first stage would be a ‘‘proof of concept’’ trial three­year lease, with options to renew for a longer period, Mrs Perry said.

The facility would earn money by charging people who had funding for research, while providing access for less well­funded groups and individuals.

‘‘It is not to make a profit for the trust, but to basically be a self-funding facility for the long term,’’ she said.

Alrec was the brainchild of the late Dr Maggie Lawton, a founding trustee, and Dr Marc Schallenberg, from the University of Otago, Mrs Perry said.

‘‘Maggie passionately believed that more needed to be done to encourage science­based management of the South Island alpine lakes and worked on the project up to her death.’’

Trust chairman Jeff Donaldson said the trust was excited by the opportunity the research centre would provide for different science teams to connect.

‘‘The economic, social, environmental and cultural wellbeing of our community is totally dependent on the quality of our water, especially of our deep-water lakes, ’’ he said.

Trustee Don Robertson said the ‘‘peppercorn’’ lease would enable the trust to begin hosting researchers at the centre.

‘‘We’ve got a reasonable rental and the whole thing has been made possible by some very generous local benefactors.’’

The facility included office and meeting areas, kitchen, bathroom and shower facilities, plus areas that could be used for lab research.

‘‘What we are talking about here is another small but significant step towards raising the profile of the desperate need for better water management,’’ Mr Robertson said.

Otago Regional Council chief executive Sarah Gardner said the ORC was pleased to be able to provide the unused Riverbank Rd depot to the trust for three years at an affordable rate.

‘‘The work that Alrec will do is complementary to the functions of ORC in regards to water.

‘‘Water and its challenges are everyone’s responsibility and we are pleased to enable, as much as possible, initiatives that take on those challenges around the region, including Alrec,’’ she said.