Returning foreshore to native bush

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Turning back time while facing the future is the Ross family of Lake Hawea Station.

They aim to return the foreshore of Lake Hawea to the kind of native bush that would have existed before European settlement.

Geoff and Justine Ross purchased the 6500ha property in 2017.

They and their sons Gabe and Finn Ross were only a few years into ownership of the land but had developed a goal of being 10 times carbon positive.

The vision is to have a 30m riparian corridor all along the foreshore from Timaru Creek back towards Hawea.

Finn Ross said the family were being helped with their goal by a team from Water Action Initiative Wanaka.

Last week they were at the site planting about 2000 native trees, adding to the total of about 14,000 native plants.

All the plantings they are making are with seedlings from the region, Mr Ross said.

Native plants included beech, kowhai, kanuka and coprosma species.

‘‘All the species that were here before we came and burnt the forest down in this area a few hundred years ago.’’

As well as native plantings, the station had established about 80ha of regenerative pastures by the lakefront, with a variety of plants including quinoa, broccoli leaf, peas, kale, and sunflowers.

The pastures were able to sequester more carbon, and had a diversity of plants for animal health, and they also reduced run-off into the lake, Mr Ross said.

The pastures were not ‘‘grazed back to nothing’’; instead, there was always some plant matter left in the pastures to alleviate rain and stormwater run-off, he said.

The station focused on using no pesticides or fertilisers, because plants including legumes were naturally putting nitrates into the soil, Mr Ross said.

The main replanting efforts had been taking place in about the past 18 months, but already there were indications of native birds returning to the area, including tui and kereru.

‘‘Which we hadn’t seen before, so we are really just starting to see an abundance of bird life come back.’’

Work was under way on biodiversity protection on the station for grand skink, the native falcon and plant species hebe cupressoides, ‘‘which is a rare mountain shrub’’, as well as endangered fish species Clutha flathead galaxias, Mr Ross said.

‘‘We’ve learned on the farm that a lot of what we have got to do is legacy farming, so rather than two- or five-year plans it is 10-, 50-, 100-, 500-year plans that we want to be thinking about.’’

‘‘It is definitely a long journey.’’

Riparian corridor . . . Finn Ross, of Lake Hawea Station, stands in front of a broad strip of land by the lake that is being enhanced by native planting. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON

 

Return to nature . . . Finn Ross, of Lake Hawea Station, inspects one of many native plants adding diversity to the Lake Hawea waterfront. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON

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