Pupils join lake restoration programme

Ward School pupils are helping plant an assortment of native trees and shrubs around Lake Elterwater, near Ward, in an attempt to recapture the area's pre-European environment.

Year 7 and 8 pupils spent the early afternoon yesterday and today learning about the environment and ecology, and planting native trees and shrubs such as totara, kanuka, manuka, olearia, kowhai, toi toi and rimu.

The three-year joint project between the Marlborough District Council, government and the Hickman family, of Blenheim, is pegged out for five hectares at the northern end of Lake Elterwater.

Landowner John Hickman said the aim is to establish a public walkway and restore the environment so it can match its former glory of around 500 years ago.

Mr Hickman said he approached the council for a biodiversity fund about two years ago.

"The best thing about the project will be in about 5 to 10 years time, when the plants are up and starting to look like what it did 400 to 500 years ago," Mr Hickman said.

The council enlisted Blenheim-based Habitat Creation and Restoration to improve the ecology of the lake, which is home to several native species including the kotuku, or white heron.

While the lake was full at the moment, this had not always been the case.

The lake and surrounding environs were a large part of the Flaxbourne community history, and its land use had varied greatly, Mr Hickman said. Initially a source of flax for local flax mills it had also been used as an an eel farm, and in very dry years as a plane landing strip, and for pasture or growing crops such as brassicas.

The Marlborough Express