Grant wildlife status to the lagoons

03:37, Jun 04 2013
Some 60 people turned out to cycle the track in the Wairau Lagoons on Sunday, January 6. The track is usually only open to walkers.

Marlborough's wine and food culture and climate are well known as its biggest draw cards, but the Wairau Lagoons could also be major attractions, say Driftwood Ecotours operators Will and Rose Parsons.

In a submission to Marlborough District Council draft annual plan, the couple have called for the creation of wildlife sanctuary status for the lower Opawa River and adjacent wastewater treatment ponds.

"The southern Wairau Lagoon was once denoted as a wildlife sanctuary but this has lapsed over time. This proposal would go some way to reinstating an area where wildlife is given protection," Mr Parsons said.

Wairau Lagoons
Work is being done by the council at the lagoons as part of the upgrade of the Blenheim sewerage system

Work is being done by the council at the lagoons as part of the upgrade of the Blenheim sewerage system, and the Parsons believed this is the perfect time to develop the idea of a wildlife sanctuary.

They made a similar submission seven years ago after spotting the endangered New Zealand fernbird at the lagoons.

"We notified the Department of Conservation and they said that this was the only known sighting of the fernbird between Havelock and Oamaru," Mr Parsons said.


Wairau Lagoons
The south end of the Wither Hills from the Wairau Lagoons at sunset.

"We wanted to protect the birds and of course their environment, too, but unfortunately nothing came of our submission then."

The submission for wildlife sanctuary status, he said, was just the first step towards what he believed could become a key attraction for visitors to Marlborough.

The wetland environment is home to myriad bird and fish species as well as being the earliest known area in the country to be settled by humans, he said.

Wairau Lagoons
Historic ship wreck of the SS Waverly on the Wairau River, near the Wairau Lagoons.

"There is an opportunity to showcase Marlborough as the epicentre of New Zealand historically, and show off the amazing wetlands," Mr Parsons said.

The couple have been taking guided kayak tours into the lagoons since 2004, with both New Zealand and overseas clients.

"Many of the people we take out have very meaningful experiences. It's a very special and unique place.

Wairau Lagoons
Dennis and Sandra Robinson of Blenheim. enjoy a Driftwood Ecotours trip in the lower Opawa and Wairau Lagoon estuary.

"This idea isn't about us and we can't do it alone. We need the council to come on board and for others to buy into it."

If the submission went ahead he the couple would like to see the formation of an oversight body or trust, and have proposed the name Friends of the Lower Opawa Wairau (Flow).

ROYAL SPOONBILLS: Among the birdlife of the Wairau Lagoon.

The Marlborough Express