Central Otago-Lakes Branch August 2009 Newsletter

Central Otago-Lakes Branch
August 2009 Newsletter

Dear Members
The Annual General Meeting – This was held in Frankton this year and was well attended. For those who did not attend and may not be aware of it yet, a resolution was passed at the meeting to change the name of the branch from “Upper Clutha” to “Central Otago-Lakes”. It was felt this would reflect the area we cover and its membership in a better manner. After the business of the meeting was completed, Dr Trevor Chinn gave a very interesting talk and power point presentation on the previous glaciation of the Wakatipu Basin. The party then departed for the Remarkable Ski Field road which proved to be a good view point for Trevor to again describe the glaciation of the area. Lunch was partaken at this point. After lunch we moved up to the ski-field car park at the end of the road and from here most of us walked up to Lake Alta to view the lake and the terminal moraine. Quite a few people who knew the area while skiing there during the winter were surprised to see the wealth of interesting alpine vegetation present in the Rastus Burn Basin without any snow.

Present Members of the Committee are:
Chairperson John Turnbull
Vice Chairperson Mark Ayre
Secretary Denise Bruns
Treasurer Mike Nelson
Committee Anne Steven
Andrew Penniket
Mike Floate

Postal Address: C/o Denise Bruns
4 Stonebrook Drive
Wanaka 9305

Our Annual Programme – With this Newsletter being posted to you goes our Annual Programme of field trips and events for 2009 – 2010; right through to the Annual General Meeting next April. The committee believes we have put together a programme of wide interest and have covered our area as evenly as we can. We hope to meet with many of our members on these trips. It was a little disappointing that our March trip to the Omarama Basin was very poorly attended. We appreciate being told that any trip has been enjoyable and instructive but, we would also like to hear of any trip that we have run is not to your liking. At the Regional Meeting in May it was decided that we would also put out a calendar of events to cover the four Southern Branch’s field trips and evening lectures, as it was felt if a neighbouring branch had a trip that appealed to any member of another branch it would enlarge the opportunities to all southern regional members.
Also, but not on our programme are other special events we are going to celebrate. For further details on these you will find them in your local newspapers nearer the time, or watch our website, or contact a committee member.

Wild River Day – The Southern Regional Branches have chosen the Nevis River for this day which is to be held on 15th November. IMG_2199Please mark this day in your diaries as much is going to happen that will appeal to all sections of the community
World Wetland Day – This is to be held on 2nd February 2010; a venue for this has yet to be decided on.
Southern Regional Meeting – This year it was our turn to host this meeting which was held in Roxburgh. Barry Wards, at that time the deputy Chairman of our Society – since elected Chairman at the Annual General Meeting on the 26th June – came down from Wellington to attend. So too did Chris Todd, South Island Co-coordinator and Anne Cameron of the Christchurch office. Discussion was widespread and it was felt that the meeting was very useful.
Forest & Bird Annual General Meeting – This was held on 26th to 28th June in Wellington. Mark Ayre was our Councillor for this meeting and John Turnbull also attended.
Next South Island Branch Gathering – This is to be held on 17th & 18th October in the Lake Ohau-Twizel area this year. Any member wishing to attend may do so. Further details will be posted on our website or you may contact any committee for further details.
Protecting the Nevis River – The Nevis River in the southern reaches of our area is Central Otago’s last remaining ‘wild’ river. It is the centrepiece of the Nevis Valley, one of Otago’s natural treasures. It is famed for its very large and wily trout in incredibly clear water, and its Grade 5-6 white-water kayaking. The Fish and Game Council has sought to have the Kawarau Water Conservation Order amended with respect to the Nevis tributary – the only one on which damming is allowed – to give full recognition to and protection of the values of Nevis River in its natural ‘wild’ state. A submission supporting the amendment was made by the Branch. Anne Steven and John Turnbull appeared at the Special Tribunal hearing in May where a fuller submission was made, making a valuable contribution to the Tribunal’s understanding of the river’s values and vulnerability. The tribunal’s decision is pending.

On November 15 this year, the Nevis will be the river celebrated on Wild Rivers Day.

Wilding Conifers – These are still with us. Of note is the adoption of a Strategy by the Queenstown Lakes District Council to endeavour to contain these in the Wakatipu Basin. A body known as the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group Incorporated has been formed to implement this strategy and our branch has a member on the executive of this society. However, one of the functions of the management committee is to raise funds to carry out the necessary work; this, in these stringent times, may take some time to accomplish. A start has been made in the containment of the wilding Conifers.

Tenure Review – Since Xmas our branch has been involved in making submissions on eight preliminary proposals on leases, plus a report on the renewal of a special lease in our area, plus also a submission on a preliminary proposal in the Mackenzie country. This has involved much travelling and research which takes up much of the committee’s time. However if we do not involve ourselves in this work the results of any review may not be anywhere as near as good as they are.
Back in April the Commissioner for the Environment presented her report to parliament which was started some three years ago on the whole process of tenure review. In it there issome good news for conservation and some not so good news. One recommendation was to alter the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998.
Our new government elected in November has signaled that it intends to implement a policy to make more use of covenants to protect the significant inherent values in any lease going through the process instead of the “preferred” method of returning the land containing those values to the Crown for protection as stated in the Act.
This of concern to our whole society not only because it will not give the best results in protecting the values concerned, but also because it will be far more difficult for the public to obtain reasonable access to view the values. If the Government decides to alter the Act, we, and the Society as a whole will be making submissions to the Select Committee examining any Bill before Parliament.

Clutha River Dams – All members will be well aware of the a proposal to have another dam on the Clutha River. Four sites have been suggested and the public are invited to pass comment on the various sites. To the committee this is falsifying the situation as they power company does not mention the fifth option of no dams at all.

Our Present Projects – The committee, under the able leadership of Mark Ayre, is still maintaining the trap line to catch stoats, rats and other vermin on SH6 at the head of the Makarora Valley near the Haast Pass. Our branch attends to the traps on the various tracks in the area whilst DoC staff attend to the traps on the road-line. If this trapping were to cease it would, in all probability be the end of the Mohua population in the valley. Now that the new track between the mouth of the Blue River and the mouth of the Young River is due to be opened, it is our and DoC’s intention to place more traps along this track to enable a larger area to be covered and thus keep up the pressure on the stoats in order to save the Mohua.

There are Forest and Bird members working alongside some of the local population on the Southern Foreshore of Lake Hawea freeing thearea of wilding trees and other invasive plants. The Rata trees we had propagated for us and planted on the foreshore through the Project Crimson Scheme are doing well. P1060055
There was considerable planting of trees and shrubs during June on the Waterfall Creek end of the Millennium Track which follows the lake shore of Lake Wanaka around the Glendhu Bay. We have to thank Mark Ayre & Andrew Penniket for organising these annual plantings; also we thank the students from Mt Aspiring College for helping, we especially thank them for making the netting cages to go around the trees to protect them from the ever present rabbits. An interpretation panel was erected just north of Waterfall Creek to explain our involvement and to thank others who have donated funds to the project or helped in other ways.

Your committee would like to know of any other conservation projects that we as a branch can become involved in, especially in the Wakatipu and Alexandra Basins.

Lindis Pass Conservation Group – The LPCG is making good progress in clearing sweet brier out of the of the Scenic Reserve, with the Canterbury side essentially clear below and west of the highway. This year’s work programme will continue to focus on brier removal, on the Otago side.
We were very excited to receive news that a Grand Otago skink was sighted near the Pass and we plan to survey populations as well as identifying other skink and gecko populations.

We have set up 50m transects to monitor young snow tussock growth in hieracium dominated areas, as it appears new plants are pushing up through the mats. We have reported on the Telstra Clear cable line damage and hope that DoC will be able to successfully get Telstra to pay for new snow tussock and shrub planting to replace those damaged by their machinery.

A new activity this year is a joint work day with the Lake Ohau Conservation Trust.
We would very much welcome new members or just help for day! If interested, please contact Anne Steven 03 443 6766 a.steven@xtra.co.nz

Aldinga Eco-Sanctuary –The last few months have seen some major developments in the Aldinga Conservation Area, at the head of Conroy’s Dam near Alexandra.
The first is the erection of a predator proof fence that surrounds two large rock outcrops (0.2ha). We are optimistic this will make great habitat for Otago Skinks. The major funder for the fence was the Central Lakes Trust. It is at least a couple of decades since these fantastic animals have been seen in the Alexandra basin, but now there is a safe haven for them we hope to reintroduce them some time in the coming months.
Briar has been removed from the area and a few natives planted to supplement those that are already there. The next step will be the removal of pest species and it will then be ready for the new residents.

A lot has had to be learnt about looking after captive Otago skinks in the Central Otago climate. The first winter they were kept in outside cages was a hard one. Better cage design has worked and they are now successfully breeding. But it will be another big step putting them out into an area to manage on their own and there will still be a lot to learn. area fence

The other development has been the building of a rabbit proof fence. This encloses a total of 14 ha with the predator proof fence at one end of it. It includes a mixture of rocky outcrops, the gully and dry faces. It contains the area we have been doing weed control in over the last couple of years (mainly removing briar). This is the area in which we will concentrate our vegetation restoration efforts. There are already a lot of natives there – just waiting to be released from the briar! Because it is so dry it is going to be difficult to establish plants and we are likely to have more success in looking after plants that are already there. fence line
These rocky gullies are a fantastic spot and the perfect place to restore as far a possible an area of dry land vegetation. Central Otago residents have a strong appreciation of our large landscapes. We are less aware of the native dry land flora and fauna. Hopefully what is happening at Aldinga will not only contribute to the survival of Otago skinks itwill also increase public awareness of dry land flora and fauna.

A lot of volunteer time has gone into the project so far and there is going to be a lot more to do in the next couple of years. Thanks to all those from F & B who have helped. If anyone else wants to spend a day of so working on the sanctuary and vegetation restoration let us know and we will keep you informed about upcoming work days.

Central Otago Recreation Users Forum Report – CORUF has been involved in some big projects lately, thankfully the argument for the hills (aka the Project Hayes Wind Farm appeal) is almost over; we are awaiting the outcome. It may be dependant on what happens on the Waitaki.

Our protest at the proposed closure of some unformed legal roads has gone to the logical next step, an Environment Court hearing. Bother.

A padlocked gate on a public road during lambing and well after led us to decide we should cooperate with council on some explanatory signage, to allow farmers to close for lambing, and recreationists to know for how long that will be, and who they should call with queries.

The Pisa Range motorised vehicle access outcome arranged by DOC Wanaka, in consultation with all of us, is in a trial stage. Access involves filling out a form at DOC, including the permission of the farmer whose land you must pass through. It is a compromise between DOC, farmers and public users to allow fairly open use, subject to due care. We hope that eventually it will be a good workable scheme.

The Snow Users Intentions book is still at the top of Symes Road on the Old Man Range. It is a communication device between differing snow users during the winter, but became a magnet to summer users who all signed their names.

The Spring Forum in November will interest the snow users and others who prefer quiet, passive or non-motorised forms of recreation on the public lands – by popular request, following our consultation on 4WD use in Spring 2007.

The Autumn Forum in May was particularly interesting for the insight Rob Wardle gave us into public land management in the USA – it gave us pause for thought about how things have worked out here.

CORUF submitted to the Kawarau Water Order Amendment (Nevis), and learnt a surprising amount from the submissions about that precious time capsule of a valley. We argued for the huge variety of recreational pursuits the Nevis can absorb and still feel like a place apart. Recreational hunters have become alarmed at the possibility of helicopter deer recovery concessions being handled by DOC Canterbury for the Central Otago Area, and CORUF is arguing against helicopter noise and commercial shooters on the tussock tops.

And DOC’s Otago Conservation Management Strategy for the next 10 years is coming up, just to give us all something to do. www.coruf.org.nz

John Turnbull, Chairperson