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Project Summary

The Touchstone project represents the first practical opportunity for the Wanaka community to become engaged in actively managing their lake.  Numerous members of the community, both rural and urban have raised concerns about the lakes present and future, its water quality and ecology. The community knows that the lake is a direct driver of Wanaka’s economy and vital to its environmental image.  However, to date there has been little opportunity provided for local people to become directly involved in the Lakes management and therefore influence its future.  The following projects have been built from the interest of local people to do just that.

The Touchstone ventures core aim is to establish community collaborative environmental projects, with a primary focus on enabling local people to affect local change on the lakes Water Quality. Engaging the community of interest, providing topical information, gathering expert advice and identifying practical solutions, those whom make a living from, play in and live by the Lake can help manage its wellbeing into the future.  One complementary aim is to conjoin rural /urban understanding of environmental issues for the lake community.

The aim of these projects is to link across the drivers of water quality decline in the Lake, talk about solutions that the community can drive and carry out monitoring that further informs community about their lake. All projects have been built “bottom up”. The local people are at the source of the ideas and focussed on interests important to them.  

Touchstone Lake Wanaka / Sargood Bequest
Touchstone Lake Wanaka / Aspiring Environmental

The projects

Project 1 – Freshwater Beasties on Drains.

Working with Paul van Klink (Fish & Game, Otago), Touchstone will provide trial examples of some new innovative freshwater creature designs (Brown Trout, Koaro, Tuna, and Grebe)which all live in Lake Wanaka.  Permission, has been obtained from the Wanaka Community Board to affix near drains, around Wanaka lake front.  These fish are made of steel/copper plate and will colour to a patina brown. We will engrave / paint on the words “only rain”. They will be affixed with “road marker glue” and  be cost effective and un-obtrusive. We will link an information sheet on what they are there for via the Touchstone web site.

Collaborators - Fish and Game Otago, Touchstone. 

We intend to involve locals in the installation.

Action: Urban dweller behaviour change and Water Quality improvement.

Project 2 - Wishbone Falls Stream and Wetland Restoration

Working with Randall Aspinall, owner of Mt Aspiring Station, Fish and Game and Aspiring Environmental, Touchstone will help organise voluntary support for a riparian planting and wetland project at Wishbone Creek and the Falls in the west Matukituki River valley.  Wishbone falls is a popular short walk for tourists.  This project will enhance access and re-instate riparian buffers.  Mt Aspiring Station has already contributed by fencing some sections of the creek. 

The project is part of Mt Aspiring Stations environmental works programme. Fish and Game Otago have applied for wetland enhancement funding to contribute to the works as well.

Collaborators - Mount Aspiring Station, Fish and Game Otago, Touchstone and Aspiring Environmental.

Action: Stream and wetland restoration – Farm Environmental Management.

Wanaka Lake Swimmers, Mount Aspiring College and Wanaka Primary School are working together on a lake water quality project.  Along with the interest of key researchers and local monitoring specialists, we have established a Curious Minds project to describe the Roys Bay swimmer environment.  Many of the clubs member’s and the school swim in Lake Wanaka regularly and experience first-hand the phenomenon - Lake Snow.  Also at times, bacterial levels (E.coli) increase in Roy’s Bay after rainfall events. This is evidenced by the Otago Regional Council recreational water quality monitoring site in the bay. 

We are establishing a water quality survey of some of the numerous drains that flow into the bay. Then, if we find drains carrying high loads of bacteria, sediment or the like, we will help tidy up any source identified.  This project links to the Freshwater Beasties on Drains Project, to complement the message around only allowing rain to flow down our drains and keep the bay a swimmers dream.

Collaborators - Wanaka Lake Swimmers, Touchstone , The Ruby Swim and Van Walt monitoring, Curious Minds

Action: Awareness raising and community science.

What else has been trickling along?

“Estimating the nutrient generation potential of current and historical uses of agricultural land in catchment tributaries of Lake Wanaka” - Shana Edgecombe (AgResearch).

Touchstone (Chris Arbuckle) has been co-supervising Shana Edgecombe a Summer Project student working at AgResearch. Shana has been examining how an accurate assessment of past farm system types and land uses can be characterised for the Lake Catchments, using the Matukituki Catchment (a key Lake Wanaka Catchment) as a test case. This projects aim is to build database of farm contaminant loss (Nitrogen and Phosphorus) and identify areas where higher sources are potentially located.  This information is an important building block for any future catchment modelling and catchment specific water management projects.

Lake Wanaka Information Summary – the Lake Wanaka Catchment – Touchstone web site.

There is no complete collation of research, science / management literature and book material that the public can source to aid in their understanding of the Lake and its water quality.  Touchstone is collating and designing a web site to act as a source of information.   Links to reports and key web sites will be housed on the Touchstone website and act as a go to for information on the Lake.

Lake Wanaka Bays Clean Up

Having spent a couple of hours biking around the lake and having windy and busy tourist season, locals have been a bit concerned at the amount of rubbish. The windy summer has not helped either. Touchstone is keen to establish a regular Lake / Beach Clean-up project. World Water Day is March the 22nd. Working with Lake Swimmers and any keen person, we will help organise a Roy’s Bay clean up.  Possibly extending it to other areas of Wanaka (Glendhu Bay, Dublin Bay). If you interested in helping with this get in contact. More hands the merrier.


How do these projects improve Community and Science understanding?


Touchstones aim is to help establish several community projects that tell a story about the water quality challenges around Lake Wanaka. While these are designed to look at bits of the complex puzzle that drives the lakes water quality. 

The approach being taken is not a “top down” (e.g. government or research) led approach.  Our aim is work with locals whom have energy and provide support for the practical things people want to do. Through the delivery of small projects, we will raise awareness about the challenges facing the Lake and help to maintain its future water quality. We aim to provide simple solutions to some of the immediate pressures upon the lake (like storm water inflows) as knowledge grows.

The three main projects mentioned above directly relate to concerns local people have raised about the lake and its tributaries. They complement each other across a gradient of pressures; both linked to the urban and rural pressures and start to help us understand the bigger picture about water quality along with recent changes such as ‘lake snow”.

Project 3 - What are we swimming in ? – citizen lake monitoring project.

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