The Lake Papaitonga Scenic Reserve in Horowhenua will be enhanced through the purchase of Preston’s wetland by the Department of Conservation, Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson announced today during a visit to the site with Otaki MP Nathan Guy.
Preston’s wetland, totalling 17ha, was once part of a natural water regime. The bulk of the western catchment flowed through the wetland into Lake Papaitonga - a dune lake that was purchased by the Crown more than a century ago.
When Global Management and Investment Ltd purchased the adjacent block for a rural subdivision in 2007, DOC sought protective measures for Lake Papaitonga in the company’s resource consent application to subdivide the land.
The company, also keen to see the lake enhanced, offered to sell Preston’s wetland to the Department and an agreement has now been reached.
“This is a significant conservation gain that will restore the values of the wetland and lake and allow opportunities for the community to get involved in its restoration,” Ms Wilkinson says.
“The drainage channels in Preston’s wetland will be plugged to redirect the water back into Lake Papaitonga, and when the natural water regime is functioning again, native wetland species will be planted.
“Lake Papaitonga is a nationally significant lowland lake and wetland, with a diverse and healthy native fish population, including the nationally threatened brown mudfish, and freshwater crayfish (koura).
“The contribution of Preston’s wetland, with a reinstated all-year stream flow, ensures the longevity of Lake Papaitonga,” Ms Wilkinson says.
“There are also plans afoot to enhance the recreation facilities and parking at the lake to make it one of Horowhenua’s major visitor destinations.
“This is a fantastic community asset and it is great to be able to provide it with further protection for future generations to enjoy.”
In 1897, Sir Walter Buller purchased an area including Papaitonga with the intention of protecting the land around the lake for future generations. In 1901, 27.5 ha of bush was formally established as a reserve, with the lake added in 1991.
The lake contains two islands, Motukiwi (Papaitonga) and Motungarara (Papawhaerangi). Motungarara is an artificial island constructed by Muaupoko residents in 1820 to extend their village.
The lake and the surrounding wetland and lush coastal forest, which make up 135 hectares of scenic reserve, is a refuge for birds that depend on wetlands or lowland forests for their survival.