Algal Bloom Alert for Waihola

The Otago Regional Council advises that the latest toxic algae samples taken on Thursday 7th of November 2013 show that algal bloom levels are still very high and showing no signs of decline.

Lake Waihola remains in red mode – which means the signs warning the public of potential risk to health must remain in place. The Otago Regional Council are continuing to take weekly samples from the lake.

Cawthron Institute in Nelson have advised the Otago Regional Council that they are in the process of identifying the toxicity levels and hope they will have some definitive results to us early next week


Tax Changes for Riparian Planting

A very positive tax reform for farmers undertaking riparian planting has been announced this month by Conservation Minister Nick Smith. The tax reform means that riparian plantings undertaken by farmers can now be deducted as an operational expense rather than as capital expenditure. Such a reform in the Income Tax Act 2007 allows the planting cost deductions that help to prevent or mitigate discharges into water courses or water bodies. The new reform will also be extended  from just trees to shrubs and other plantings.

This is a very positive move by the minister and will assist pro-active farmers who working hard to protect waterways and wetlands.

Putting the spade in the ground

Annual General Meeting

The Annual General Meeting of the Lake Waihola Waipori Wetlands Society will be held on Wednesday 10th July at 7:30pm at the Waihola Hall. All are welcome.

This year’s guest speaker will be Peter Bodeker the Chief Executive of the Otago Regional Council.


Algal Bloom – Public Meeting

SONY DSCThe management of Algal Bloom has been a hot topic for the Waihola community and visitors to the lake over the summer. A public meeting is to be held between Otago Regional Council staff and members of the community.

There has been strong dissatisfaction within the Waihola community at the way public signage and advertising of the algal bloom issues has been undertaken. The public meeting will be held in the Waihola Hall on Wednesday 13th March at 7:45 pm. The meeting will discuss the known facts about algal bloom, the health implications and the relationship between bloom presence and water quality.

See the Otago Regional Council’s meeting presentation here

Warning on toxic algae – Otago Daily Times

Toxic Algal Bloom Report – Otago Daily Times

Reasons for Algal Bloom not that simple – Otago Daily Times

Potentially lethal new hazard – Otago Daily Times

World Wetlands Day at Titri

Wiel family at TitriThe Lake Waihola Waipori Wetlands Society celebrated World Wetlands Day on the 2nd of February at the Titri wetlands. Working with the Department of Conservation the walking track and viewing platform have finally been completed and opened for public use. While the project has taken considerable time with technical and logistical problems, perseverance and hard work have finally triumphed. The Titri wetlands are a fine example of the retirement of agricultural land and the natural restoration of a site into a vibrant wetland area. The track and viewing platform add a new conservation and recreation asset to the Waihola community, and it is hoped that people will enjoy the opportunity to visit this beautiful area. The track opening ribbon was cut by Maureen Wiel who was accompanied by members of her family. Her late husband, Bert, was a foundation member of Lake Waihola Waipori Wetlands Society and Bert was a tireless advocate and worker for the betterment of the wetlands. After the Opening Ceremony the group shifted to Sinclair Wetlands to do some planting followed by afternoon tea.Titri Wetland

Lake With a View


Some of the dead willow alongside private property and the Lake Waihola edge have been removed by contractors recently. The Lake Waihola Waipori Wetlands Society have been fortunate to receive invaluable sponsorship from forestry company Wenita Forest Products and Roxburgh Contracting.  The work was undertaken with skilled machinery and  forestry workers on January 31st and February 1st to remove the dead willow killed in the Society’s 2011 spraying programme. The removal work would have cost $2500 and the Society is extremely grateful to these companies for their generous donation in this task. The area will be replanted using native wetland species and fenced off to protect the planting and the lake-land edge from stock. The Society have been aided in this project by the generosity and assistance of landowner Robert Girvan and his family. The Girvan family have a long association with the Waihola region and there is discussion with local community group Waihola Looking Forward to build a walking track in the area. The open views of the lake from state highway one have been greatly enhanced and the work adds to the natural qualities and biodiversity of the area.

Machinery removing willow

Black swan monitoring

LWWWS recently had a report on swan numbers from Fish and Game manager Ian Hadland. Fish & Game Otago have been monitoring Black swan numbers at Lakes Waihola and Waipori for at least the last 20 years. The high summer aerial count is done in conjunction with the paradise shelduck moult count flight.

The data shows a highly variable population and this is largely explained by the fact that they are a transient bird which tends to use a number of lakes and estuaries across Otago and Southland. Due to the low number shot each hunting season (under 1000 Otago wide) it is not thought that hunter harvest of them has a big influence on their numbers. Even the organized hunt which took place in 1999 on Lake Waihola (where around 900 were shot) failed to have any long-term impact. The population seemingly bounced back and bubbled along somewhere between 1000 and 2500 birds. Variation aside, the data suggests a sustainable population and not one which is surging as some people suggest.

Black Swan do appear to be taking better advantage of nearby pastures though and that is making them more visible and is causing concern to landowners. Some may argue that sharing a lakeside property with a bit of wildlife comes with the territory. Others are less sympathetic and want to know why swan grazing habits have changed. One suggestion is that the swan, who’s main diet is lake weed, preys upon high quality pastures in the early spring when the aquatic vegetation has been eaten out. This may not be a swan numbers issue – it could be related to water quality or clarity. Whatever the reason, when the water temperatures warm up and the lake weed regrows, they do tend to return to lake grazing.

Black Swan Lake

…not a drop to drink?

The publication in March 2012 of  the “Water Quality in New Zealand – Understanding the Science” report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has been an important first step at improving the quality of New Zealand’s waterways. The report does not provide a “fix all” methodology for the challenges that we face in water management in New Zealand, but rather looks at understanding the science behind water quality. This is critical if we are to have rational debate that ultimately leads to sustainable management of water for industry, agriculture, recreation and domestic use. In the context of that debate the protection and enhancement of wetland’s such as Waihola and Waipori are pivotal in  their role to our local catchments. Importantly too, localised wetland and water management contribute to regional and national protection of our indigenous flora and fauna. The recreational opportunities afforded by water in New Zealand are a central part of our lifestyle that we enjoy as “rites of passage”. So gaining an understanding of the science that contributes to that lifestyle is important if we are to pass those rites of passage on to future generations. It would be a sad day in New Zealand if there was “water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.”

Getting Down and Dirty

Students from Otago University‘s second year Ecology programme got out of the classroom and up to their knees in wetland mud on Sunday 29th of April as part of their course. The group of 80 students and University staff Kath Dickinson, Marion Johnson, Haseeb Randhawa and Emeritus Professor Alan Mark spent the morning removing wilding confiers, silver birch and willow at the Waipori wetlands. The field trip was an oportunity for the students to undertake a practical project and to get to grips with the work involved in wetland conservation. With 80 students the large group were divided into work teams of ten and loaned tools from Forest and Bird. Each team recorded which weed species they removed and were motivated by the competitive spirit when told the team which removed the most weeds would receive an award. The “award” was a handsome trophy made from two polished pine cones and brass plaque with “Weed Whackers 2012” inscribed on it and was donated by wetland project manager Paul Pope from Spiralis Ltd. The students worked hard in the wet muddy conditions and removed 257 wilding conifers and 598 willow and silver birch  saplings and small trees from the wetland area. The winning team of Erica, Ali, Bailey, Henry, Fin, Dom and Hayley managed to remove 188 wilding trees, great effort!

After a short walk to look at the results of the aerial weed control undertaken by the Lake Waihola Waipori Wetlands Society the students took a well deserved break at Sinclair Wetlands. They then visited Ram Island and looked the restoration planting undertaken on the Island. It was great to have the students working in the wetlands and having their energy and enthusiasm helps to vitalise the Society’s efforts in the conservation of the area. For the students, there’s nothing like getting out into the field and feeling the mud between your toes and knowing you’ve played a part in a local conservation project.

Wetlands Walk – Pictures from the Taieri Herald

With the Wetlands Walk completed and the Society planning what its next event will be, local newspaper the Taieri Herald printed some great pictures of a few of the 10o walkers who took part. Read the full Taieri Herald article