Southern Lakes Sanctuary
The Southern Lakes Sanctuary demonstrates the commitment by the people of the Queenstown-Lakes District to do their part in achieving Predator Free 2050, the ambitious goal to rid New Zealand of the most damaging introduced predators that threaten our nation’s natural taonga, economy and primary sector.
We all understand the stunning natural beauty of the southern Lakes and surrounding mountains, the amphitheatre of the southern Lakes tourism industry. Less well understood is the biodiversity, some with regional, national and world heritage significance that resides within the Sanctuary’s southern lakes catchments.
An independent technical assessment concluded, that if the Southern Lakes Sanctuary could be established, the protection of “…threatened indigenous wildlife would be achieved that has no equal in any other region in New Zealand.” (Wildlands 2020)
The diverse range of indigenous fauna in the Southern Lakes Sanctuary includes high alpine species like the iconic kea, diminutive rock wren and elusive orange spotted gecko, forest birds such as the kaka and mohua, braided river birds like the wrybill and banded dotterel, wetland birds such as the marsh crake, the pekapeka / long tailed bat, and dryland specialists like grand and Otago skinks and pihoihoi / NZ pipit. These incredible animals, most unique to Aotearoa/ New Zealand, are among more than 30 species that are at-risk or threatened, that can be supported by the work of the SLS.
A place of global significance
Te Wahipounamu – South West New Zealand, part of which lies within the sanctuary, has been recognised for its global significance with UNESCO World Heritage status. Such mana is only afforded to sites with ‘outstanding universal value’ – the best of the best places in terms of cultural and natural heritage. New Zealand’s Sub-Antarctic Islands, Tongariro National Park, and Te Wahipounamu are the only three World Heritage sites in Aotearoa New Zealand. Tititea / Mt Aspiring National Park, third largest of New Zealand’s 14 national parks, also lies within the Sanctuary boundaries.
The long-term vision of the Southern Lakes Sanctuary and its consortium members is to see predators eradicated from the Southern Lakes region. This can only be achieved by a phased approach across the 660,000 ha project area, a stepwise eradication of predators at selected sites eventually joining to achieve regional eradication.
The partners in this consortium have been focussed on predator suppression for many years, as they did not have access to the machinery of eradication, nor the funding to pay for it. With advances in techniques and technology, and funding made available by DOC’s Mahi mō te Taiao / Jobs for Nature, the consortium is now able to begin moving beyond suppression into an eradication framework.
The project approach uses international best practice for systematic planning, implementation and monitoring of project activities, Individual consortium members are also undertaking their own research and trials to improve their techniques and methodologies, and are pushing some of the boundaries of current predator control practice in New Zealand.
The Southern Lakes Sanctuary is a landscape that represents significantly large parts of the country; we must learn to eradicate predators here if we are to become a truly predator free New Zealand.
The Southern Lakes Sanctuary is more than just the sum of its stunning topography, biodiversity and ecosystems. At the heart of this project is the high level of community support it benefits from. The Sanctuary concept arose from the grass roots of its existing groups and organisations, serviced entirely through the tireless efforts of local volunteers.
We are fortunate to enjoy an intricate web of connectivity between dozens of volunteer groups and their communities, and can now build on their efforts with professional staff who can go deeper into our forests and higher up our mountains to protected the taonga species that are only just clinging on.