Ferny Gair Conservation Area, Marlborough – December 2022
Lake Alexander is a rare example of a lake in the Marlborough backcountry. The attractive bush-surrounded lake lies near the headwaters of the Tummil River, in the Waihopai Valley, southwest of Renwick. Near the lake is Lake Alexander Hut, a standard six-bunk Forest Service design. Built in 1965, and originally called Tummil Hut, it was relocated to its present site in 2010.
Simon Wayatt from the Marlborough Branch of the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association (NZDA) has been undertaking some excellent work in the area, with support from DOC ranger Ray Bennett. In December 2022, Simon flew into Lake Alexander Hut with fellow NZDA member Paula Carter. Their main mission was to install a new water-tank. Previously, hut occupants had to walk for some 10 minutes to get water.
DOC ranger Ray Bennett and another DOC worker flew in with the NZDA crew to assist placing the new 3000-litre water-tank. A pre-made base, with the tank secured to it, was flown in by helicopter on a strop, including all other the materials required and the guttering.
After the tank was placed, the team checked the levels for the guttering installation, which was mounted securely with extra brackets. Afterwards, Ray and his worker walked out, and cut some dangerous windfalls off the track en route.
Meanwhile, Simon and Paula made a rodent-proof device to stop mice or rats crawling up the overflow pipe. The hut interior was filthy, with possums having gained entry. After giving the hut a significant clean (walls, windows, mattresses and bunks), the pair installed an extra door latch to stop possums entering.
Outside, they dug encroaching tussocks out from around the hut cladding and replanted these around the water-tank base. The river terrace has flooded in the last two significant weather events that smashed Marlborough in 2022, and will require ongoing monitoring.
Other tasks included removing a bird’s nest in the toilet, and altering the top of the door to stop them returning. In the near future, the toilet floor will also need replacing with fresh ply (which a NZDA party will attend to in 2023). The woodburner got a new door seal too.
Simon and Paula took the poled route up onto the Ferny Gair tops, removed some wilding pines, noted the GPS location of others, and shot some goats. On their walk out, they also did some light track clearing.
Those visiting the area should note that while the track to Lake Alexander and the Kakariki Loop Track have had the worst windfalls removed, these trails are only ‘route’ standard at present.
DOC ranger Ray Bennett summed up: ‘A special mention and thank you must be extended to Simon Wyatt. His planning, passion and execution of the work at Lake Alexander Hut and Black Birch Biv [see seperate blog] has been outstanding.’