Life in the Lake
The lake is neither entirely freshwater nor estuarine, it is in fact a coastal lagoon. Periodic opening of the lake allows for the migration of species and increases the diversity of life. The lake was once bounded by extensive wetlands of raupo, flax and sedges of which 81% have been lost or extensively modified. These would have given way to forests of kahikatea, red beech, matai and totara which would have led to present-day Christchurch. Extensive canopies of floating weed beds also provided habitat, food and trapped sediment, creating clear freshwater zones.
The lake is the ultimate roadside cafe for wading and shore birds, and is the most diverse site in New Zealand’s for birdlife. It provides habitat for 167 different bird species. The lake is the feeding ground for birds from as far away as Russia, China, Canda and Korea. The following birds were sighted from the first time in New Zealand on the lake: Little Stint, Lond Toed Stint and the Stilt Sandpiper. In addition, the following migratory birds can be seen each summer: Curlew Sandpiper, Sharptail Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Red Necked Stint, Ruddy Turnstone, Golden Pacific Plover, Red Knot and the Bartail Godwit. Finally, international ornithologists visit the lake to view: the Wrybill, Black Stilt and the Banded Dotterell.
The lake is home to 43 species of fish and the whole catchment has high fishery values. The lake supports commercial eel, flounder and mullet fisheries and the catchment has recreational trout, perch and whitebait recreational fishing.