A personal view by by Laurel Teirney, a former manager at Ministry of Fisheries
The success of the community based/scientist/agency approach we adopted for looking after the whole of the Fiordland, and then the Kaikoura Marine Areas makes me feel we’ve struck on a “magic” formula that just might apply to our lakes and rivers as well.
My passion, at the moment, is finding out if such an approach might work for lovely Lake Wanaka – because I have watched in dismay as numerous lakes and rivers have deteriorated in front of my eyes. So something about our current approach isn’t working for our waterways.
Lake Wanaka photo Laurel Teirney
There are those who say a combined community/scientist/agency approach will not work for this lake catchment – but why not give it a go? After all, what have we got to lose? And surely our lake deserves every effort to keep it in the low nutrient, high water quality category into the future for all our sakes!
Buff weka family feeding in Lake Wanaka shallows in 2008. This species which had become extinct were once common on the eastern South Island. They were reintroduced from the Chatham Islands onto Lake Wanaka’s Stevenson Island and nurtured in an aviary before releases on Te Pekekara and Waikatipu islands and to Mou Waho Island in Lake Wanaka, where they currently enjoy surprising picnicking visitors.
Obviously a healthy lake is paramount not only for the well-being of these very special birds, but other species as well, notably ourselves!
To me the fundamental principles of the approach to managing the Fiordland Marine Area are likely to be the same for lakes – indeed for any type of waterbody.
1] First, the approach is all inclusive – that is, tangata whenua and every “interest” is represented and everyone selects their own representatives.
Fishing boat in Preservation Inlet, Fiordland, with a cargo of cray “pots” [actually cages – lowered near rocks and pulled up again after a few days]. This is financially a high stress job, and dangerous. Also it’s a very different use of the environment compared to recreational fishing, and tourism
2] Then, when the representatives are around the table the first task is to agree on a shared vision. At our first Fiordland meeting in December 1995 there was a palpable sense of unease around the table. But when we went around the table and each person said how they wanted to see the Fiordland Marine Area in 20 years’ time, the unease was replaced by outright surprise – because everyone wanted the same thing!
A recreational diver in Preservation Inlet, Fiordland NZ. 2015. Diving for photos only due to it being a Marine Reserve, and as mentioned below not much is known about this area e.g. the fresh water layer here, on top of the salt water was approx. 5 meters, and nobody seemed to be aware of this – elsewhere it’s typically 1-2 meters
3] From then on, the primary focus stayed with the Fiordland Marine Area, not the desires of any participating group.
Dusky Sound, Fiordland
4] Given the isolation of Fiordland little had been documented about the marine area – so the priority was to gather together what was known. Following the shared vision at the first meeting a large map of Fiordland was laid on the floor. Each group was given different coloured dots and asked to place them on the map according to the locations they valued. Red rock lobster and purple paua dots appeared rapidly all along the coastline. But the blue recreational dots were slower in coming – as we all know rec fishers are a bit reluctant to share info about where they fish…..but when they considered what might happen if they didn’t show their dots they too were around the map and the shared observations and experiences filled the room. Only then did Stewart Bull of the Oraka/Aparima runanga, calmly walk up to the map and place a single yellow Ngai Tahu dot way out in the ocean. Silence fell and then some-one asked “Hey Stu what were you doing way out there?” And he calmly replied, “Oh just looking around”. And that set the tone for the rest of the process – lots of good humour and camaraderie.
Good humour is often evident in Fiordland, especially on the rare sunny day! A pessimist in Dusky Sound, Fiordland does therefore standout – near where Capt. Cook anchored up in Pickersgill Harbour for a month, after a circumnavigation up to three quarters of Antarctica.
One other experience of community knowledge that has stayed with me was the identification of the lines defining the inner fiords from the outer coast. I’ll never forget Pete Young, a blue cod and rock lobster fisher, standing at the maps marking exactly where those lines should be with input and encouragement from the rest of us. It wasn’t until several years later that Steve Wing, our marine scientist, produced data that simply reinforced the lines Pete had drawn.
No place to be in a 4 meter alloy tender with serious white water wanting to drive the bow under, and we’re upstream of a large rock, with all but 5 mm of it submerged – the head of Long Sound in Preservation Inlet, Fiordland
5] And so to the roles of the community and agencies involved. These were complementary right from the start and best described by an “egg analogy”. The yolk represents the community – all passion, commitment and knowledge about their place. The white represents the agencies – all support, advice and management tools for putting the management decisions in place. And there has been an additional benefit as the agencies now work in teams for every issue they deal with.
To me, this approach harnesses all the knowledge, all the passion and all the energy that leads to innovative solutions for even the most difficult issues.
And ongoing motivation is assured by the delight and reward of being involved in looking after one’s own place.
So my “dream” is to see many more of our waterways, be they lakes, rivers or marine areas looked after in such a way. Top of FormAnd logically, extending this from the mountains to the sea (ki uta ki tai), whole catchments could be managed in such a way – though the logistics are rather mind blowing I have to admit!
In the meantime though, I’m just going to continue advocating for a Lake Wanaka Community Management Plan.
The depth of water under the boat at Mou Waho Island on Lake Wanaka is deep enough to engender a sense of vertigo, it’s so clear. So “clear” that maybe we take it for granted!
Sunset – Dusky Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand
Unless stated otherwise all photo credits are Southern Light
top: Members of the Matukituki Trust planning trapping operations at Aspiring Hut 10 days ago
Many of you know that I’ve been involved with many others giving native bird populations a leg up via the Matukituki Trust for the last 4 or so years. Progress has been very steady and positive due a good base plan concept, followed up by proven methodology.
Taking a wider view the good news is that four Trusts inc. the Matukituki Trust, several landowners, tourism operators and DOC, are now working collectively in the area from the mid slopes of Mt Aspiring to Wanaka.
Data obtained is being entered into a centralised database that monitors approx. 1600 traps, [Matukituki Trust 620], which enables all to look at and plan for the bigger picture.
Traps of all types upstream from Aspiring Hut in the West Matukituki valley, Mt Aspiring National Park. Liverpool valley on the left, upper west Matuki. and Scott Bivy rock in the center, and French Ridge on the right.
Many traps are above the winter snow-line in these three areas, with many being of the self resetting variety
I can’t comment yet on all the “kills” but in the last 6 months the Matukituki Trust’s traps have caught 911 predators: cats, rats, hedgehogs, stoats and possums. Mice, despite not directly being predators, are included.
It’s estimated that each predator kills 2 wildlife per week [birds, lizards,, bats insects etc] thus the above kills amount to 47,000 wildlife saved to-date.
Possums do eats chicks and eggs, but this aside 20 of them will eat 2 tons of vegetation per year, so this means that 18 tons are not eaten. That’s 9000 full shopping bags that stay on the trees to benefit the birds.
A new kid on the block – one of many of the south island robin reintroduced some years back. Breeding has been so successful last spring that it’s hard estimate if we’re talking scores or hundreds of birds that have been bred by about 20.
In the last few weeks contractors have been in the valley to set up transects for annual bird counts, but so far exactly how many has not been released yet.
A brief history of the Matukituki Trust:
First we installed about 170 tracking tunnels in the West Matukituki valley to establish what predators were about that have been compromising bird breeding numbers. Answer: too many opossum and mice.
And on another front the means to scientifically establish how much seed the resident silver, red and mountain beech forest produced every three months. Answer: lots!
So-much-so, on both counts that the valley became “eligible” if you like for the Dept. of Conservation, partners with the Trust, to schedule a 1080 poison operation. This was carried out about 2 years ago. Interestingly I literally lived in the midst of it I
Knowing it’d be successful like in other areas like the Routeburn in “buying time” for more native birds chicks to reach maturity, work began in earnest on installing what now amounts to about 620 traps or various types in the valley [mostly high quality DOC 250’s], so that as the predator numbers inevitably increased, we’d be ready with other means to make sure the balance of bird v. vermin, swung in favour of the former.
For a few years now the grebe, an endangered species, has been in the news regularly making a name for themselves nesting on floating nests tethered to the Wanaka Marina.
The whole wonderful story of what is essentially eco restoration, with a decidedly lateral thinking twist can be had by going to the link below.
Photographically speaking I’ve not taken much interest, but yesterday while picnicking closer to the lake outlet than to their new near-town chosen breeding area, two birds came quietly paddling towards me, and then in a seemingly courting mood, started mooching about, sometime paddling apart from each other and sometimes coming close.
They seem to be a bit of enigma in many respects, and apparently one [lacking] attribute is they’re not at all at home on land, as seen here: it flapped it’s wings rather feebly and then literally lurched upwards and forward to collapse on a rock for a minute or so. Maybe in the context of courting this has some meaning unknown to us!
Read the whole story as outlined by Radio NZ recently:
Meet the Australasian crested grebe, a lake bird that is more closely related to penguins and albatrosses than it is to ducks. It is so aquatic that it can’t walk on land; it can pull itself on and off its nest, but that’s the extent of its terrestrial forays. A bird can disappear from one lake and turn up on another, but no one in New Zealand has ever witnessed it flying. In other words, it’s a bird beset by mysteries. But for the past three years John Darby, a penguin and albatross biologist who retired inland to Wanaka, has been unravelling some of this bird’s secrets.
A heads up for residents of Wanaka and Albert Town, and all who care about the health of rivers such as the Clutha…
Goldfish believed illegally dumped into Albert Town’s artificial wetlands are breeding and some have found their way into the natural lagoon beside the Clutha River.Now, environmental agencies are concerned the bottom-grazing pest fish may soon invade the already degraded Clutha River, which has been infested by didymo for about 10 years.