Introducing Wānaka’s grebes to the next generation

A plea for the Wānaka community: if you have any small unused buoys sitting in your garage or shed, please drop them into reception at Wānaka Primary. | Credit: Randall Richards

Wānaka's local grebe expert, John Darby, has taken on some new helpers for his marina grebes project - the lake guardians of Wānaka Primary School.

Darby first became involved with the plight of the great crested grebe in Wānaka in 2013, constructing and maintaining floating nests to help them breed successfully on the lake. There are currently 10 to 12 platforms in circulation around Wānaka marina.

Wānaka Primary teacher Markus Hermanns has taken on parts of the project in the last few months to assist Darby, now in his 80s. In turn, he has introduced his students to the grebes project through the school’s education outside the classroom programme (EOTC). While many of the students go skiing for EOTC on a Thursday afternoon, others have been participating in planting sessions, trapping and - at the end of August - the grebes marina project. 

“John is so supportive of the kids being involved,” said Hermanns. “They are the next generation.”

Maintaining the platforms at the marina “brings the grebes to the people,” highlighting the need for their protection, but both he and Darby have expressed concern about the potential impact that the upcoming construction of a lakeside boardwalk over the summer - as well as ongoing apartment development across the road - could have on the birds’ breeding season.

“Every which way, things are confusing and pretty disruptive for the grebes,” said Darby. “There is a lot of activity on the marina and the piling over the road, but we are hoping things will quieten down within the next few weeks.” He remained positive, having seen five pairs of courting or mating grebes over the last few weeks, although it was still early in the season for serious breeding.

In future, Hermanns hoped for the school to become more involved with the project on a regular basis, through both its extracurricular science groups and Chris Arbuckle’s Touchstone Project, which facilitates a number of community-based environmental sub-projects around Lake Wānaka, but knew that Darby would always be part of the project. “He is the grebes,” he said. 

He also had a plea for the Wānaka community for any old or unused buoys to help keep the breeding platforms afloat. If you have any small buoys sitting in your garage or shed, please drop them into reception at Wānaka Primary.

Read edition 991 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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