Land Swap Adds "Significant" Wetland Area
Land Swap Adds "Significant" Wetland Area To New Zealand's Conservation Heritage
The Minister of Conservation Hon Sandra Lee has announced that a land swap between two farming families and DOC has added a significant area of Lake Ellesmere wetland to New Zealand's conservation heritage.
"The public-spirited actions of the families can only enhance what is already the most important wetland habitat of its type in New Zealand," Ms Lee said. "Lake Ellesmere, or Te Waihora, is internationally recognised not just for its wetlands but also for its wildlife habitat."
The Conservation Minister said inland sections of two wildlife management reserves were swapped for freehold land along the lake margin, located approximately 8km north-east of Leeston.
"As a result," she said, "four and half kilometres of wetland habitat are now protected across the front of four lakeside farms. The area is dominated by native sedges and rushes and also contains plants of the endangered native swamp nettle."
Ms Lee said around 70% of the lake margin is now accessible to the public, with DOC managing about 30%.
She recently gazetted both exchanges after a long negotiation and consultation process with landowners, Fish and Game, Ngai Tahu and the Canterbury Aoraki Conservation Board.
“The Wildlife Management Reserves were two of five farm blocks purchased in the mid 80’s by the Wildlife Service, " Ms Lee said. "Their purpose was to assist with game management on the lake, and to provide a land-bank that could be later sold or exchanged to extend the public ownership of the lake margins."
She said the blocks were leased for grazing as a short-term measure and in 1995 the department had approaches from two landowners for possible exchanges.
“Botanical assessments were carried out on the freehold blocks, which found some of the best examples of wetland vegetation on that side of the lake. This is because one block had only sheep, not cattle, grazing it,” Ms Lee said.
Some production land was included in the areas now under DOC management as insurance against the possibility of rising lake-water levels ‘pushing back’ the wetland reserve boundary.
Ms Lee said that DOC would continue to lease these areas for sheep grazing in the short-term as a trial. An exclusion area will be fenced off and the area monitored to see if sheep grazing assists with the regeneration of wetland species.
Lake Ellesmere is Canterbury’s most important area for game bird shooting. Vehicle access for hunters during the shooting season had been negotiated as part of the agreements.