Provincial, small-town New Zealand folk are well known for ‘coming together’ to achieve common goals especially when those end objectives benefit the community as a whole. Natural habitat restoration projects are particularly good examples of this community spirit with the end result seeing improvements in the quality of natural environments and subsequently creating better habitats for birds and wildlife. The Grovetown lagoon in Marlborough enjoys success through community help combined with generous funding from local authorities and businesses.

Aerial view of the Grovetown lagoon showing formation of oxbow lake

Geographical History

Grovetown lagoon is one of the few natural wetlands remaining on the Wairau plains in Marlborough. Geographically speaking the lagoon is an ‘oxbow lake’. This type of lake is formed over time when a river creates a curving, meandering path which eventually nearly cuts back onto itself. (See aerial image). As the ‘neck’ of the meander becomes narrower and narrower it becomes susceptible to breaching during the next major flood, which in this case occurred in 1861. The high waters and fast flows broke through the narrow piece of land which in effect straightened the river’s path leaving an isolated curved lake where the river once flowed.

Aerial view of the Grovetown lagoon showing formation of oxbow lake

The Lagoon

As the Wairau river continued on its new, straighter path, the Grovetown oxbow lake’s water remained clear and fresh, even in times of drought, due to the numerous nearby freshwater springs flowing into the lagoon. Fish and eels continued to thrive in the wetland while birds made their homes around the sheltered water using it for feeding, nesting and raising their young.

One very small part of the lagoon’s banks showing the proliferation of native plantings

Unfortunately, as time went on, willows and invasive climbing vines overcame the banks of the lagoon. Adding to the environment degradation, effluent and silt from farming practices and the local Grovetown residential settlement began to pollute the waters of the loop.

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