Spring is here and we will start our volunteer work sessions again this month. The grebes at Lake Middleton have also arrived back after their winter holiday and are reclaiming their floating nesting raft from the scaup, mallard ducks and shags. Grebe nesting is likely to happen soon.
September work session - planting around the Trust's gear container
Our first spring activity is on Sunday 22 September starting at 10am. We're going to do some planting around the Trust's gear container at Lake Middleton. All the tools and other materials we need for the planting are in the container. We've formed a bund for the planting so that we can landscape the area to make it an attractive route to Lake Middleton and provide some shade for the container.
October work session - wilding tree removal from QEII Trust wetland covenant area
At Labour weekend, Sunday 27 October, we'll be removing wilding trees from the QEII Trust wetland covenant area to the right as you travel towards Lake Ōhau - there are 2 wetland areas nestled in the old moraines (and another large wetland to the left as well). There is now a profusion of small to medium wilding trees growing in and around the wetlands.
We may extend our session to go from 10am to 2pm (rather than finishing at 12 noon) - depending on numbers of volunteers and progress made on removing the trees. Further details will be sent by email to those on our supporters list. To join our supporters list - use the form in the "Contact us" tab on this website.
A comprehensive report about the intrinsic values of the Lake Middleton catchment has been prepared by John Benn, of the Department of Conservation.
You can read the report here -Lake Middleton Catchment Report June 2019
The work session at Queens Birthday weekend (2 June) has been cancelled. We'll resume work sessions in Spring - on 22 September (South Canterbury Anniversary weekend).
On 17 May a field visit hosted by the Upper Waitaki Zone Committee took place at Lake Middleton. The Zone Committee invited DOC, Waitaki District Council, adjoining land owners, Fish and Game, the Trust and ECan technical staff to discuss what are the issues facing the lake and its management? What could be done to address them?
The Trust looks forward to working with the relevant organisations to restore and enhance the lake and its margins. Further information will be provided when available. The Timaru Herald published an article about the lake on 23 May 2019 - https://www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/news/112907441/decline-in-water-quality-at-lake-middleton-a-concern
27 and 28 April work session cancelled
All 147 beech trees are now planted so the next work sessions are cancelled. Thanks to all the volunteers who planted the remaining trees during the week.
Easter Saturday and Sunday beech tree planting
With around twenty adults and lots of keen children, we planted around 50 beech trees on Easter Saturday at the Aubrey Reserve and Poverty Point. Thanks so much for all those that helped, on what turned out to be a bright sunny day with some wind!
On Easter Sunday a small dedicated group turned up to plant in overcast and sometimes showery weather. At two locations up Lake Ōhau Road past the Parsons Creek bridge, 45 more beech trees were planted on the lake margin near a few very large and very old beech trees.
So that's 95 beech trees planted! We'll plant the remaining 52 trees on the weekend after ANZAC day (27 & 28 April). Details will be emailed to Trust supporters and posted on this webpage.
We really appreciate all the time and effort given by volunteers to do this planting. You will be able over time to see the small forests of beech trees growing along the lake margin and providing habitat for our precious native species.
Here's some of the volunteers with the newly planted beech trees.
Working Session - Easter and Anzac - 10am-12 noon - Beech Tree Planting
Easter Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 April AND weekend after ANZAC day - Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 at 10am-12 noon
We've got around 150 beech seedlings to plant that the Trust has had grown by Motukarara Nursery from locally sourced seeds.
We will be planting at five locations along the lake shore - from Aubrey reserve opposite the Ōhau Village up Lake Ōhau Road to the last area opposite the grass airstrip. If we are not at the first site just drive along until you see the group.
Please bring any tools you may have that will be useful for digging/planting. Gloves will be provided.
Not to forget also plenty of water, hat and appropriate working attire, including sturdy footwear.
Work mornings in 2019
The dates for the work mornings in 2019 are listed under the "Getting Involved" tab.
The Queens Birthday weekend work session has been cancelled due to foggy and frosty weather - not conducive to working outside or using the chemical on rosehip/briar. Next work session is in spring - Sunday 23 September 2018. Details will be sent out prior to this time.
The ANZAC work session has changed from the 22 April to the 29 April. An email has been sent to supporters. If you want to join us to remove some wilding trees along the A2O cycle trail please use the contact us form on the "contact" tab.
The AGM will be held on Sunday 21 January 2018 starting at 11am at the Lake Ōhau Lodge. We encourage you to stay for lunch at the Lodge after the AGM. A booking for lunch is required.
Work mornings in 2018
The dates for the work mornings in 2018 are listed under the "Getting Involved" tab.
Cotoneaster eradication work
The Trust's work with the Department of Conservation, Environment Canterbury and Waitaki District Council to eradicate cotoneaster from around Lake Ōhau was reported in the Waitaki Herald on 30 August 2017 (https://www.neighbourly.co.nz/e-edition/waitaki-herald/21710).
Cotoneaster is an evergreen small shrub or tree originating from China and the Himalayas. It over-tops and replaces native shrub species and prevents the establish of other native species. It has spread from domestic gardens around the lake. Contact the Trust to identify it, if you think you have it growing in your garden. The Trust is happy to suggest and supply an alternative native plant to replace cotoneaster removed from gardens around Lake Ōhau.
Planting natives at Twizel and Lake Ohau
Here is a planting guide that provides information for property owners in Twizel and at Lake Ōhau who want to plant natives in their gardens that reflect the natural local environment.
You can pick up a printed copy of the Planting Guide from the Te Manahuna/Twizel Department of Conservation Office, Wairepo Road, Twizel.
Strategic Plan and Projects
A new tab "Projects" has been added to this website where you can find a copy of the Trust's Strategic Plan and information about current projects.
The AGM will be held on Sunday 15 January 2017 starting at 11am at the Lake Ōhau Lodge. We encourage you to stay for lunch at the Lodge after the AGM. A booking for lunch is required.
Work mornings in 2017
The dates for the work mornings in 2017 are listed under the "Getting Involved" tab.
FUNDRAISING DINNER AND EILEEN MCMILLAN LECTURE
Lake Ōhau Scientific Drilling: First findings from lake drilling project - presented by members of the Lake Ōhau Scientific Drilling project team
SUNDAY 5 JUNE 6.30PM - 3 COURSE DINNER AND FUNDRAISING EVENT AT THE LAKE ŌHAU LODGE
TICKETS $60 - $30 will go to the Ōhau Conservation Trust
Tickets are limited – please purchase your ticket as soon as possible by contacting Lake Ōhau Lodge on:
(03) 4389 885 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org - Visa and MasterCard accepted
At the Trust AGM, the Trustee’s acknowledge the contribution of Trustees and supporters who died during 2015:
Eileen McMillan (Secretary/Treasurer for 10 years); David Becroft (longstanding supporter of the Trust); John Hall-Jones (the Trust’s Patron) and John Smithies (Chairperson for 8 years). All committed a large amount of time and energy to the Trust's activities and they are greatly missed.
It is now ten years since the first small group of keen but inexperienced volunteers were led out by Department of Conservation staff and introduced to the growing problem of "wilding" pines in the Lake Ōhau valley. Large landowners were removing substantial infestations of self-seeding conifers, but conservation land desperately needed attention too.
Since then that first modest group of perhaps a dozen enthusiasts has been joined by others until supporters now number more than fifty. They turn out not only on the Trust's regular scheduled workdays but also in their own time. As well as pines, volunteers target broom, gorse, sweetbriar and lupins along roadsides as well as on public land.
Grants have also been received for planting native species, and hundreds of small beech, kowhais, hebes, coprosmas and tussocks are beginning to enhance the lakeside. Both the Alps 2 Ocean Cycleway and Te Araroa Walking Trail pass through the main areas worked on by the Trust. The Trust is also considering planting species with particular value to bees, of which this country has 28 native species, along with 13 introduced ones. In New Zealand as well as overseas, some farming practices have reduced the flowering species necessary for bees to thrive.
Trust members also collect seed from the Lake Ōhau valley and send it to the DoC Motukarara Plant Nursery near Christchurch. There they are grown and the seedlings are available for sale to members of the public who may want eco-sourced plants.
Hours put in at scheduled workdays and by Trust volunteers in their own time, amounts to a significant contribution to the environmental protection of the valley. During the last twelve months volunteers worked the equivalent of nineteen 40-hour weeks. Without this dedicated work over the past decade the Ōhau Valley today would look very different.
The Trust recognises many other conservation values of the valley, and moved into predator trapping to give our native bellbirds and fantails and other feathered friends a greater chance of survival. Astonishing numbers of ferrets have been caught in humane kill traps over just a 5 km length of lake shore, and the Trust plans to extend this programme.
Trust members recently took part in an Australian crested grebe survey. A pair regularly nests on Lake Middleton, choosing a nest site so close to the popular camping area that their breeding success most years is nil. Grebes are regularly seen on Lake Ōhau, but only one (thought to be one of a nesting pair) was seen on the day of the survey. They seem perhaps to favour the smaller bodies of water, although 77 were counted on Lake Benmore. 81 were counted on Lake Alexandrina and nine on Lake McGregor. Ruataniwha had six, the Wairepo Arm nine and the Kelland Ponds three. Overall these relatively rare birds seem to be slowly increasing in numbers around the South Island.
The water quality and the life within the lake itself is just as important as the land. Native fish, tiny galaxids, some of which are familiar to us as whitebait, breed in Ōhau's mountain streams, though their access to these streams from the lake is often blocked by road culverts. Such culverts tend to become undercut at their exits, and the resulting overhanging lip is then an impassable barrier to fish travelling upstream. Scientists at Environment Waikato have discovered that galaxids can climb suitable ropes such as mussel spat rope. Installing this rope in culverts has been proven to enable fish to pass through. The Trust is currently investigating this possibility for Lake Ōhau.
Rainbow and brown trout were released in Lakes Ōhau and Middleton and many of the larger tarns in the 1890s, and both quinnat and sockeye salmon were established in the Waitaki River system over 100 years ago. Landlocked descendants of all these still inhabit Lake Ōhau. Ngai Tahu are now collaborating with native Americans who have come to this country with the aim of re-introducing the descendants of their own salmon back to their rivers of origin in California, where the worldwide problems of water over-use and pollution, along with a huge hydro dam on the McLeod River that blocks migration, have led almost to their extinction.
Another significant inhabitant of Lake Ōhau and the upper Waitaki River is the longfin eel. The longfin is indigenous to New Zealand and precious to the Maori people. The species is officially listed as endangered, and is threatened by dams, overfishing and degradation of habitat. Since the commissioning of the Waitaki dam in 1935, migration to and from the sea has been blocked for both eels and salmon. Members of the Waitaki Native Fish Committee, supported by Meridian Energy, now catch mature female longfin eels above the Waitaki dams and transfer them past the lethal hydro turbines that would end their final migration to sea and the Tonga Trench where they spawn 6,000 km away. These females can be more than 100 years old, so their life cycle is a very long one. Committee members then gather up the tiny returning elvers whose passage back up river is blocked by the Waitaki dam, and transfer them up to Lake Benmore. It's hoped that fund raising may eventually enable the establishment of fish passes on all the Waitaki River dams. The Trust has resolved to support the Native Fish Committee in their endeavours, and all profits from this year's fund raising dinner on 3 May 2014 will go to the Committee.
Lake Ōhau's scarlet and red mistletoes have been spectacular this season. Most amazing has been to find mistletoe growing not only on the usual beech trees but also on matagouri and even a wild plum tree. The Trust's wilding pine removal work continues steadily. Hundreds of acres of tussock grasslands on the south western terraces above the lake have been cleared of these weeds, and now need only an occasional check for new seedlings, easily removed. Planting over the past three years of more than 3,000 native seedlings is complete, and two wet summers have insured that survival rates have been excellent. Visitors and residents alike will benefit in years to come from the sight of hundreds of flowering kowhai and hebes along the lake edge, and increasing bird life attracted by more berry-bearing shrubs.
Birds are also benefiting from the Trust's most recent project, predator trapping. Ten child-proof and dog-proof humane, instant-kill traps placed unobtrusively along the lake shore caught nearly twenty ferrets, several stoats and a weasel in their first six weeks of operation in autumn. The traps are regularly patrolled by local volunteers.
A large ferret is removed from one of the Trust's ten humane instant-kill traps on conservation land by Lake Ōhau. In the first 12 months after these predator traps were set out along a 5 km stretch of lake shore, 42 ferrets, four stoats and two weasels were caught. This must have saved the lives of numerous small birds and geckos.
The Trust's Annual General Meeting in October 2012 re-elected the Committee unchanged.
The Lake Ōhau valley has always been renowned for its scarlet and red mistletoes; it also nurtures the rarer yellow mistletoe. This beech tree and its colourful parasite was photographed in 2012 at Parsons Creek, looking up towards the Glen Mary Glacier at the head of Lake Ōhau. Aorkai/Mt Cook is visible far right. Photo courtesy Albert Aanensen, all rights reserved.
2010/11 has seen tremendous progress in conservation work around Lake Ōhau. $7,000 has been spent by the Trust on contractors to remove wild rose-briar, broom, barberry and other weeds along the lake shore. This work is being followed up by Trust volunteers. The scrub cutter bought with grant funding from Meridian Energy has proved extremely useful.
Wilding conifer removal in recent months has seen the greatest progress in the Trust's seven-year existence. Volunteers have worked in excess of 2,000 hours over the past year, with the result that the tussock terraces above the lake between Parsons Creek and the Lake Ōhau Lodge almost up to the ski field road are now 95 percent free of wildings. Although some new seedlings will appear for the next few years, the mature pinus contorta that are the seed sources are being removed, and this problem will be vastly reduced in future. The unstinting support of the owners of the Lake Ōhau Lodge and Snow Fields and many of their staff has contributed enormously to this success.
Progress has also been made on private land adjoining the Freehold Creek conservation land. In autumn the landowner and friends were joined by Trust supporters, Department of Conservation contractors and a team from the Forest & Bird Society Dunedin Branch's Wilding Pine Group wielding chainsaws and scrub cutters. A range of processes were employed on larger trees, some of which were chain-sawn and the stumps poisoned, others cut low to the ground and the remaining bark stripped. It will be interesting to compare the effectiveness of different control methods in a few months time.
On what can be thought of as the positive side of activities, the bulk of the Community Conservation Fund's nearly 2,000 locally-sourced seedlings have been planted along the lake shore over the last two years. Many of these are berry-producing plants chosen specifically to attract birds, but along the roadsides and walking tracks, attractive flowering hebes and trees such as kowhais and beech are also being established, along with a variety of tussocks. Last year's wet, warm summer has ensured that a good 95 per cent of the first swathe of plantings have survived and indeed are thriving. This year's seedlings are now all in the ground.
The Ōhau Conservation Trust was recently awarded this year's Canterbury Aoraki Conservation Board Award for conservation activities, presented by Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson to Trust representatives Hamish and Mike Darling in Rangiora at the end of September. All the above has been very heartening for the Trust as we wind down after what has undoubtedly been our most successful year to date.
The last three mild years have brought about a phenomenal germination and growth of self-seeded conifers. We're not going to run out of targets for workdays any time soon! However, the Trust is encouraged as the old station plantations further up the valley that have been the seed source for "wildings" are being eliminated. The six years of the Trust's existence have proved that the natural values of the Ōhau valley are not past the point of being rescued.
An attractive Department of Conservation sign has been put up by the gate into the lakeside reserve across the road from the Lake Ōhau Alpine Village. This indicates that revegetation of the fenced area is a joint project between DOC and the Ōhau Conservation Trust. Weed control in this area is continuing and beginning to show results, as is planting of beech, kowhai and tussocks. Plantings are thriving despite a very dry late summer and autumn.
BBQ lunch on the Avoca Flats, Lake Ohau, on 21 March 2010 with some of the Trust's enthusiastic volunteers. From left: Malcolm McMillan (Lake Ōhau), Alison Aanensen (Taupo), Andy Aanensen [obscured], David Becroft (Auckland), John Smithies (Lake Ōhau) attending the barbecue, Eileen McMillan (Lake Ōhau), Matt Sole (Central Otago, obscured), Ursula Paul (DOC, Twizel), Anne Steven (Wanaka), Genevieve Becroft (Auckland).
Photo Alison Smithies.