Introduction

A desirable waterfront property development with a difference has given hope to endangered Australasian crested grebe/kāmana at Ashburton Lakes, thanks to Hassle-free Tours.

Date:  12 October 2009

A desirable waterfront property development with a difference has given hope to endangered Australasian crested grebe/kāmana at Ashburton Lakes, thanks to Hassle-free Tours.

Mark Gilbert, owner/operator of Hassle-free Tours has designed and built a floating nest platform. Last week Department of Conservation (DOC) staff helped set it up in Lake Emma where two grebes have been seen courting.

Grebe nests being placed on Lake Emma.
Mark Gilbert (left) and Jason Marsh from
Hassle-free Tours fine-tuning the artificial
nest platform on Lake Emma

Grebes build floating nests on lake margins but many nests are flooded by waves caused by gusty nor’west winds common in the area. Nests are also raided by predators or disturbed by boaters, walkers and dogs.

“We hope that the artificial nesting platform will not only provide the grebes with a nest that is less prone to flooding, it will also make it harder for predators to get into,” said Gilbert.

 “We take tours through this area every day, so it’s important to us and our eco-conscious clients that we contribute to protect the wildlife here.”

Hassle-free Tours specialise in offering unique day tours from Christchurch into the breathtaking Canterbury high country. Their Lord of the Rings Tour visits Mt Sunday, otherwise known as Edoras, the capital city of the Rohan people and the most spectacular and recognisable locations from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Once the prototype is finalised and seen to be working, Gilbert plans to provide up to ten of the nesting platforms.

Wendy Sullivan, DOC ranger said, “Artificial nest platforms have been used on similar species overseas so we are confident that this could be used to help increase grebe numbers in the area.

There are about 600 Australasian crested grebe/kāmana in New Zealand, breeding in the high country lakes of Canterbury and Otago.

“Partnerships with businesses such as this means we can achieve so much more for conservation  and we are very excited by this project,” said Sullivan.

DOC staff will monitor the platforms as well as all the natural grebe nests in the area as part of the Ō Tū Wharekai Wetland Restoration Project.

Ō Tū Wharekai (Ashburton Lakes) is one of the best examples of an unspoiled and intact, inter-montane wetland system remaining in New Zealand, and is nationally important for wildlife. The project includes the braided upper reaches of the Rangitata River, and the 12 lakes that make up the Ashburton Lakes, along with ephemeral turfs, streams, swamps and bogs. The project is one of three Arawai Kākāriki projects, a national programme aimed at restoring and understanding three significant wetlands with the assistance of the community.

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