A group of passionate volunteers from Central Otago and Canterbury has proved collaboration and persistence pay off, with a long-term project to restore the Lindis Pass now in its 14th season and showing no signs of slowing down.
The Lindis Pass Conservation Group is made up of volunteers from locations ranging from Wanaka through to Twizel and Chatto Creek.
The group was formed in 2004 with the main objective of enhancing and promoting the natural conservation and recreational values of the scenic reserve and neighbouring conservation areas.
Since then, the group had partnered with several environmental organisations, chairwoman Anne Steven said.
Along with an ongoing partnership with the Department of Conservation, the group also receives funding from the Otago Regional Council to conduct briar control in a section of the Otago side of the reserve, while funding from Environment Canterbury goes towards conducting snow tussock restoration trials.
The trials involved partnering with Otago Polytechnic, she said. The group collected tussock seeds from the reserve, which polytechnic students then grew at the Cromwell campus for the next three years.
The plants were later planted back in the reserve over bare patches of ground. Around the reserve, photographs of the planting and weeding were taken from the same GPS co-ordinates, allowing the group to accurately monitor changes in the landscape and pass on their findings to other groups considering similar projects.
Ms Steven, who works as a landscape architect in Wanaka, said heavy burning and grazing until the early 1950s had left the land very degraded, but the ongoing projects were beginning to bring a noticeable change to the landscape.
“It is quite different to what it naturally should be.
“[But] I think we’ve made a huge difference.”
Department of Conservation senior ranger Annette Grieve said the Lindis Pass Scenic Reserve was relatively free of weeds, thanks to the efforts of volunteers.
“It is easy to take the sweeping tussock vista for granted but many volunteer hours are spent removing invasive weeds that, if left unchecked, would see the tussock region changed.”
Various native creatures relied on the pass, she said, and the area was possibly New Zealand’s best-known tussock grassland landscape.
Volunteers met two weekends ago for the season’s first workday. The group hopes more people get involved.
Like Ms Steven, secretary Jan Kelly has been involved in the group since its inception. The workdays were as much about protecting the natural beauty of the area as they were about enhancing the environmental values, she said.
Spending time in the reserve also gave volunteers a chance to better appreciate the area.
“It’s getting people to engage in the environment again.
“When people whizz through in the car they don’t really see any detail.”
Getting out in the pass allowed people to notice the little things, she said, like the native species and the overall beauty of the area.
“You get such a rush from being up there.
“They [the volunteers] come away smiling and all charged up.”
The next workday will be held on October 28, weather permitting.