Tim Davie

tim-Tim Davie – Surface Water Resources & Ecosystems Manager, Environment Canterbury; Whakaora Te Waihora Workstream Leader, Science

Tim DavieTim Davie has had a long association with the Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere catchment. He grew up in the Halswell/Taitapu area and the Halswell River was part of his wider childhood playground.

His commitment to the catchment is strong and his desire to see a healthy lake environment with a thriving ecosystem has been one of the drivers of his current work with Environment Canterbury and Whakaora Te Waihora. He’s positive too, about the long-term future for the lake.

“It will be a while before we see big, highly noticeable changes in the lake environment – perhaps 20-30 years – because it takes a long time to repair environmental damage; but we will see improved ecosystems, improved water quality and the revival of species.

“That said, the notion that the lake is ‘dead’ is completely wrong. While there is an acknowledged level of pollution, it is surprisingly healthy. It’s a highly productive lake – from an abundant bird life to algae, right through to several fish species including tuna (eel) and pātiki (flounder). It’s known for its diversity.

Tim says poor water quality has put the lake under a lot of strain. That, he says, is a legacy of agricultural production and deforestation within the catchment and across the Canterbury Plains over the last 150 years – not something that can be turned around quickly. But he is confident the introduction of nutrient limits coming through Variation I of the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan (also known as the Selwyn-Waihora Sub-Regional Plan), should make a major difference.

As the science workstream leader for Whakaora Te Waihora, Tim oversees six streams of science investigation. These include investigations into lake openings; maintaining a managed lake level; mahinga kai bio-health (investigating contaminant levels); nutrient processing within the lake; macrophyte trials; and fisheries management. All this work is contracted out to science providers such as universities and Crown Research Institutes.

“We have a range of science projects on the go on the lake from applied science (macrophyte re-establishment) through to some quite fundamental issues such as mechanisms driving nutrient processes,” he says.

The lake opening project, mahinga kai bio-health and fixed lake level investigations are all due for completion before June, while the three remaining long-term projects require extended field work.

Tim is very pleased with progress to date.

“One and a half years in and we’re making good progress. We had a meeting in February where everyone presented their results to the Te Waihora Management Board and that was very successful. We’re now planning a public meeting at Lincoln University later this year, to inform the wider community of our results thus far.”

He says the Whakaora Te Waihora partnership has been both challenging and rewarding.

“It hasn’t always been smooth sailing but it is an excellent example of what can be achieved with voluntary community collaboration and I think it makes for a much stronger approach to the lake’s restoration.”

Prior to taking up his position with Environment Canterbury five years ago, Tim was a scientist and team leader at Landcare Research in Lincoln, focusing on integrated catchment management and general hydrological science.

His passion for his work has always been driven by his underlying curiosity about the environment and how things work in the greater landscape – “the questions behind what you see.” He grew up interacting with the landscape and the natural environment and that has always informed both his work and his leisure time – evidenced in his love of fly-fishing, tramping and (earlier in his life) mountain climbing.