A reconnaissance survey of Lake Ellesmere and its border lands
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The purpose of this paper is to give a descriptive account of Lake Ellesmere and the land immediately adjacent to it. Ever since the settlement of Canterbury the utilization of this land marginal to Lake Ellesmere has presented a special problem which has been largely one of recurring inundations due to rise of the lake level. The frequent flooding of much of it temporarily puts large areas out of economic use. Therefore the primary purpose of this paper is to define on a map the limits of the area adversely affected by the rise of the lake level. Having done this, an attempt is made to describe in general terms the nature, management and use of this land and to examine the various schemes by which man has attempted to control the rise and fall of the lake. Incidental, but at the same time essential to this discussion of the lowland bordering the lake is a study of the nature and origin of the lake itself and the shingle barrier enclosing it. With one departure the boundary of the region under discussion is that drawn up by the Ellesmere Lands Drainage Board. This Drainage Board boundary includes all that land directly flooded by the lake as it rises, and all the land liable to be indirectly flooded because of the reduce fall in the rivers and creeks. The area included in the region under review but not in the Ellesmere Lands Drainage Board’s area is the shingle bank separating the lake from the sea. This has been included because it is responsible for the formation of Lake Ellesmere. Through the Drainage Board boundary is a purely arbitrary one, a glance at the soil survey map will show that it coincides very closely with the boundary between the saline or partly saline soils and the non saline soils. For the discussion of the nature and origin of the spit, extensive use has been made of Professor R. Speight’s paper on the “Lake Ellesmere Spit” which appears in the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute”, Vol 61, 1930, 99. 147-69. For information about the Maoris and the early European settlement in the region a series of articles written by Mr. W. Taylor and appearing in the “Ellesmere Guardian” of 1943-44 proved most helpful. For the account of the utilization of the land of the region it was necessary to make field observations and interview the farmers themselves. In an endeavour to control the rise and fall of the lake level the Ellesmere Lands Drainage Board, which has been inexistence for thirty-eight years, has collected a great deal of useful information. This information has been of great help and thanks are due to the Board for permission to use it. The writer is also indebted to Professor E. Percival and Mr L. W. McCaskill for information on the fauna and flora of the region; to the Public Works Department for a copy of their contour map; to Mr C. S. Harris of the soil survey division of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research for access to a soil survey map of the region; to Mr V. C. Browne for aerial photographs; to Mr. F. Millar, Mr F. Coop, Mr Stalker and Mr W. O. Rennie for much valuable information about the present and past land utilisation in the region.