A decision by the Department of Conservation to build a four-wheel-drive road around Lake Heron will seriously damage the lake’s unique natural values, tranquillity and endangered wildlife, Forest & Bird says.
Forest & Bird is calling on Conservation Minister Chris Carter to reject DOC’s decision to build the road.
Forest & Bird Executive member Gerry McSweeney says allowing the three-kilometre four-wheel-drive road around the eastern lake shore and across wetlands to Harrison’s Bight would cause serious harm to the important natural heritage of the area.
Lake Heron is protected as a nature reserve - the highest level of protection for a conservation area. In 2004 the Nature Heritage Fund bought the Lake Heron lowlands of Clent Hills Station for $3 million to protect the wetlands, tussocklands, glacial morianes and shrublands and recognise the national significance of the Lake Heron Basin. The purchase was made with strong support from the local community and farmers.
The lake is home to the largest population of the endangered southern crested grebe, as well as other rare native species.
“Construction of the road will disturb endangered wildlife and destruction of native vegetation, and will require a wetland to be filled in or bridged. DOC is allowing serious degradation of the lake and its wildlife just to appease four-wheel-drivers and fishermen who don’t want to walk around the lakeshore.”
Gerry McSweeney says the decision set a worrying precedent that could see other the conservation values of other nature reserves sacrificed to demands of recreational users.
There was already significant road access around almost all of Lake Heron and extending the road was completely unnecessary in terms of public access, he says.
“This is probably the most important lake and wetland in the South Island high country, and it is a special place in the hearts of many. If DOC lets four-wheel-drive vehicles run rampant in a reserve of this status, we fear what will happen throughout the rest of New Zealand’s wild places.”