Stunning Glen Lyon Station further protected from weeds

What started out as wilding pine control nearly 20 years ago has blossomed into numerous environmental projects across generations for the family-owned Glen Lyon Station in Upper Waitaki.

The 25,000 ha farm sits at the northernmost point of Lake Ōhau, where alpine waters from the Hopkins and Dobson rivers meet and flow southeast towards Twizel.

It is a huge area to protect, but landowners Jane and Ken Wigley, along with son Johnny, have given it their all for the past few decades.

It’s not just invasive wilding pine they’re controlling. In 2019, the Upper Waitaki Water Zone Committee, through a recommendation to Environment Canterbury, supported a three-year $73,000 Immediate Steps weed control project to protect braided river habitats, wetlands and dryland ecosystems.

Wetland protection the key for Glen Lyon Station

On Glen Lyon Station, targeted weeds include crack willow, Russell lupin, elderberry and cotoneaster.

It is hoped at the end of the three-year project, native species will be the dominant feature of the Station, protecting natural wetlands and allowing them to regenerate.

“Jane and Ken started doing some pine tree control with DOC (Department of Conservation) and ECan in the early 2000s and that’s been really successful,” Johnny said.

“Since then we’ve started targeting the lupins and the cotoneaster and some of the other scrubby weeds around the place – and that’s been really good. We’re two years into that now and we’ve made some good progress so far,” he said.

Johnny’s passion for conservation came at an early age, growing up in a beautiful part of New Zealand.

“I grew up here and was quite outdoorsy as a kid because it’s such a great place to be. I went away to school when I was 10 and then came back home to live and work full time when I was 26 and quite a bit had changed since I’d been away,” he said.

It is important to control weeds in areas such as farmland because, if left alone, weeds spread quickly – dominating native species’ space, crowding them out so they can no longer grow.

Willow control the focus of project year two 

Jason Butt and Jenna Hughes-Games gear up for a day of weed control surveying

Our land management advisor for southern zones, Jenna Hughes-Games, said with a successful first year of the project done and dusted, it was pleasing to be invited back to continue work in conjunction with the landowners.

“I brought Jason Butt (principal biodiversity advisor, wetlands) along with me and we’re looking at some wetlands here for willow control,” Jenna said.

“Jason’s looking to lend his help with funding alongside our Immediate Steps funding, DOC, Land Information New Zealand and Glen Lyon Station as part of the three-year project here.

“We didn’t spray as many willows as we would’ve liked last year, but Jason is going to create a wetland action plan and put some money towards willow control in and around this area,” she said.

Image right: Jason Butt and Jenna Hughes-Games gear up for a day of weed control surveying.

Project allows wetlands to return to a more natural state

Jason Butt and Jenna Hughes-Games survey the health of wetlands

Removing introduced species such as willows allows wetlands to return to a more natural state. In turn, this provides a healthier habitat for the flora and fauna in the wetland.

Glen Lyon Station is an example of landowners going above and beyond what is required of farms by the regional council in the Upper Waitaki region.

Protecting and enhancing the biodiversity of the zone’s water bodies and high-quality drylands is an outcome developed by the Upper Waitaki Water Zone Committee.

It is also part of their Zone Implementation Programme Addendum (PDF File, 2.16MB) which sets out the committee's goals.

Image right: Jason Butt and Jenna Hughes-Games survey the health of wetlands.

Main image: Jenna Hughes-Games and Jason Butt survey Glen Lyon Station for potential areas of willow control.