Henley Lake - activities

Henley Lake and wetlands cover 43 hectares on which the following activities take place:

♣ Native Plantings
♣ Exotic Plantings and autumn colours
♣ Cabbage Tree Forest
♣ Birds (over 50 species have been spotted)
♣ The Bird Hide
♣ Walk your dog
♣ Stunning views of the Ruamahanga River
♣ Waka ama and Dragon Boat racing
♣ Small yachts and model boats
♣ Kayaking
♣ Teddy Bears' Picnic (spring)
♣ Balloon Festival (March)
♣ Exercise stations
♣ The Men's Shed


The following is an article printed in Water Magazine, July 2010:-

BOC Where There's Water Environmental Community Grants Programme Recipient a Finalist in Green Ribbon Awards

The Henley Trust 2003 has been a recipient of the BOC Where There's Water Environmental Community Grants Programme (administered by Water New Zealand) since 2006, and this year was a finalist in the "Caring for our Water" category at the Ministry for the Environment's Green Ribbon Awards. Susannah Peddie, Grants Administrator for Where There's Water, visited the Henley Lake wetlands in May, to see the work the Trust has been doing over the past few years.

The Henley Lake wetlands are part of a 43 hectare acre complex (originally a small dairy farm), which includes an 11 hectare lake, the wetlands, large grassed areas and a network of paths. The concept for Henley Lake was dreamed up in the 1960s by a group of men in Masterton – spearheaded by Masterton lawyer Henry Major. The group envisaged a large lake (they hoped around 100 acres), that would become an attraction for visitors to the region looking for water-based recreation, including rowing and yachting. In 1966 Major formed the original Henley Trust (named after the Henley rowing regatta on the Thames). Gravel was sold from the site to raise funds for further development, and the lake was finally filled in 1987.

The wetlands themselves were created as part of the overall plan for the complex, but over time they became weed infested and gradually lost their value as a bird habitat. Various plantings throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s left areas of exotic trees – including wattles, gums, eucalyptus, oaks and willows – around the complex. While some of these will remain, the focus now is on planting endemic and self-sustaining natives.

In 2003 the Henley Trust was rejuvenated to restore the wetlands by retired GP Tenick Dennison, who has a passion for birdlife and conservation. The Trust now has 9-10 dedicated members who all bring different skills to the table, such as accounting, building and plant knowledge. The majority are retired, but they show no signs of slowing down. All Trustees are actively involved in the wetlands project and get stuck into the physical tasks such as clearing, weeding, planting and mulching. While some of the heavy duty or large scale work is contracted out – most of the work is carried out by the trustees and willing volunteers.

During my visit to the wetlands I was shown around by Henley Trustees Liz Waddington, Gordon Cook and Jim Campbell. I couldn't have asked for better tour guides, as between the three of them they knew every plant, when it was planted and by whom. Their connection to the wetlands, and the great pride and satisfaction they receive from the project was clearly evident as they took me around the area.

The tour started at an area which Jim has recently bulldozed, and which will soon be ready for planting. We walked over a route that would become a path, stopping where there will be a seat and lookout point. All this was under the watchful eyes of a family of pukekos on the far bank of the pond. As Gordon said, the project "is evolving as it goes", and it is certainly in great hands. As we stood there the three were discussing the possibility of developing the area facing the lookout to resemble a New Zealand wetland as it would have been before European settlement. Listening to their ideas and vision for the wetlands, I understood how enjoyable it must be to be part of the creation of the area. There are more bird sightings at Henley Lake than anywhere else in the Wiararapa, and 72 different species of bird have been recorded at the complex. Our walk took us past a pond where gravel islands have been created to encourage dotterels to nest. In the same pond we could see feeding tables and nesting boxes on stilts sticking out of the water; a haven for ducks such as the grey teal.

1500 rainbow trout were released into the lake when it opened, and a local school continued to release trout over the years after sourcing them at Turangi and rearing them at their trout hatchery. This process is no longer in operation and the only fish currently in the lake are the 500 carp that were recently released to try and control weed.

The Henley Trust has been working with several groups and schools in the Henley Lake complex since 2003. Lakeview Primary School is adjacent to the complex and has had a close involvement with the wetlands, with its 475 plus students involved in annual plantings and rubbish cleanups. Two other schools (St Patrick's School and Douglas Park School) have also been involved in planting, as have an Idea Services group (an IHC community service) and periodic detainees. Gordon makes wooden signs to commemorate who planted certain areas and the year they were done. The Trust is noticing that many groups, especially the schoolchildren who are planting annually, have taken ownership of the area and return to observe, weed and look after their area.

The water in Henley Lake comes from the Ruamahanga River, with its level artificially controlled by the council. The Lake water in turn feeds down to the wetlands, which is also controlled with a series of simple dams. At the other end of the wetland there is no visible exit for the water, and it seeps into the ground, some of it eventually rejoining the confluence of the Waipoua and Ruamahanga rivers. For this reason, the quality of water in the wetlands needs to be as pure as possible.

To date, water quality has been monitored by observation, birdlife, insect life and the health of the plantings. This year, however, Lakeview School has been lent a SHMAK (Stream Health Monitoring and Testing Kit) courtesy of the Royal Society of New Zealand EMAP (Environmental Monitoring Action Programme) Project, which will enable formal monitoring of the water quality at the wetlands.

Another facet to the Henley Trust's activities at Henley Lake is the Men's Shed, which was completed in June 2009. The shed doubles as a storage shed for the Trust as well as housing an impressive array of woodwork and metalworking machinery. The concept of the Men's Shed is very popular in Australia where there are more than 400 sheds, and it is a movement that is likely to gather momentum in New Zealand. The shed appeals largely to those reaching retirement age or unemployed, some highly skilled, some seeking to learn new skills or polish up old ones, all hoping to make friends and give something back to the community.

The Henley Men's Shed has been a huge success, with 75-80 members after just one year of operation. Some of the wooden signs and seats that are placed around the complex are made at the shed and just outside is the beginning of a brick pizza oven, which will be great in summer!

Anyone can access the Henley wetlands, and the area is enjoyed both by members of the Masterton community and visitors to the region. The lake is used for non-motorised water sports such as dragon boating, waka ama, kayaking and small yacht and model boat sailing. The Trust encourages dog owners and their pets at the complex, and the area hums with activity every day of the week. It is hoped that eventually the wetlands will be self sustaining with minimum maintenance required.

If you are ever visiting Masterton, or just driving past, I recommend a walk around the Henley Lake wetlands. Invigorating fresh air, thriving native plants and inquisitive birds all await you. This area is undergoing impressive restoration and I am sure the result will be above and beyond that which Henry Major and his friends envisaged last century.

Susannah Peddie, Grants Administrator, Where There's Water