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Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere Wetlands protected


Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere Wetlands protected

A new slice of New Zealand's most important wetland habitat, Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere, has been protected under a deal announced by Conservation Minister Chris Carter today.

The newly protected area spans about 3km and is visited by over half of all of New Zealand's bird species. Located near the Christchurch to Akaroa highway, it is also home to numerous notable native plants.

"Lake Ellesmere or Te Waihora is recognised internationally as a significant wetland habitat," said Mr Carter.

"This acquisition protects an important environment that is now uncommon due to land clearance and modification. It is particularly significant because it also borders the Greenpark Sands area, an internationally recognised wildlife habitat."

The Department of Conservation already manages about 30% of the Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora lake margin. It has added the new area through a purchase and exchange scheme with Mark and Pat Butterick, owners of 'Lakelands' property of which the parcel of land was formerly part.

The deal with the Buttericks has two phases. Firstly they have bought the whole Lakeland's property with an agreement that DOC would purchase from them a 240 hectare-block bordering the lake. Once the area has been surveyed in six to 12 months time, the department will exchange the rear dry-land part of this block for more lake margin on an adjoining freehold block.

"The purchase was made possible with money from earlier lakeside exchanges," Mr Carter said.

"It had been set aside specifically for purchasing more land around the lake, as part of a long-term plan to have the entire lake margin protected."

Lake Ellesmere is an important recreation area offering fishing, game bird hunting, bird watching and botanising. It is of spiritual and physical significance to Ngai Tahu, who know it as Te Waihora or 'water spread out'. It was also known historically as Te Kete Ika a Rakaihautu, 'the fishing basket of Rakaihautu', a Ngäi Tahu ancestor. The name indicates the lake's traditional value as a food source.

The importance of the lake to Ngäi Tahu was recognised in the Ngäi Tahu Settlement Act 1998, which returned most of the lake bed to iwi and set up a process for Ngäi Tahu and the Crown to develop a joint management plan for the future of the lake and its environs. That will include the new area.

Banded dotterels, wrybills, pied stilts, black stilts and pied oystercatchers have all been recorded on the new patch of land. Rare native species such as purple mimulus are also growing there.

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