Angkor agency staff here to learn

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MATT.TSO
@thenews.co.nz

The Central Otago Department of Conservation team has been teaching the tricks of their trade to visitors who will use the skills to conserve ancient temples.

The Alexandra Doc office has been hosting two staff members of Cambodian government agency the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (Apsara).

Apsara is the authority responsible for the protection of the Angkor World Heritage Site and surrounding area, which includes the ancient city and temples of Angkor Wat, and fulfils a similar role to Doc’s.

The two Apsara members, Meach Meanoun and Nhem Reasmey, are working alongside Doc staff to learn about key processes such as leadership, relationship management and technical skills used in New Zealand.

It is hoped some of the skills and techniques the men learn in New Zealand can be applied in conservation efforts in Angkor.

The pair have spent about three weeks in Alexandra and are also studying the Otago Central Rail Trail and water management systems in Central Otago.

Mr Meach works in an Apsara team which focuses on tourism and the economy of the more than 50,000 people who live within the Angkor site.

He said Apsara might consider establishing a cycle trail between villages in Angkor to attract tourists and he was particularly interested in how the Otago Central Rail Trail had affected tourism and the economy here.

Such a trail would allow more of the Angkor population to become directly involved in the tourism industry, bringing money into the villages, he said.

The men were also looking at New Zealand water management systems and Mr Nhem has been looking at how the water system in Angkor could be improved.

He said parts of the existing water system in the Angkor region were centuries old and had been installed around the same time the temples and city were built.

The water management system was key to managing soil erosion around the temples and supplying villages with water to grow rice, he said.

The men are also interested in Doc’s advocacy role in talking with residents and other institutions about conservation and resource management.

Mr Meach and Mr Nhem both said they were enjoying their time in Central Otago and had been taken aback by the scenery and how friendly the people were.

They are scheduled to leave New Zealand in April.

The programme the men are participating in was introduced through a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Apsara partnership intended to support sustainable management of Angkor Park.

The agreement aims to provide economic prosperity and food security to the people who live in the Ankor region.

Two other Apsara staff have been placed in Turangi.

Central Otago District Operations Manager Mike Tubb said he was impressed with the Apsara staff members’ eagerness to learn.

He said the conditions Doc and Apsara worked under were very different and programmes like this one allowed for better understanding of each other’s processes, facilitating co-operation in the future.