Flora & Fauna
The Mackenzie Country’s Flora is characterized by open grasslands consisting mainly of golden tussocks dotted with scattered exotic trees. The surrounding mountain slopes are characterized by some native beech forests and tussock country containing occasional alpine plants. Plants to look out for include large Celmisia mountain daisies and Ranunculus buttercups. Also to be found in the area are Kowhais (Sophora sp.), which flowers in August and September, and two rare native brooms, Carmichaelia curta and C. kirkii which are both threatened species.
The nature of the climate is harsh, ranging from hot dry summers, to cold frosty winters. Across it all, blow the hot, dry nor-westers that dictate as much as the stormy cold Southerlies, and heavy winter frosts, that the vegetation of the Mackenzie be hardy and drought resistant. Despite the climate extremes it should be noted that the area has some of the highest sunshine hours in New Zealand, and one of the lowest yearly average wind speeds.
Lake Tekapo in summer is surrounded by several hectares of Russell Lupines in attractive shades of pinks and purples. A few seeds were said to be scattered by an early run holder’s wife who wanted more color in this barren land.
The fauna before the arrival of the Maori and the first settlers was populated by a rich variety of bird life (as was all of New Zealand). The hunting for food and the introduction of exotic mammals such as cats, stoats, ferrets and weasels, has drastically reduced their numbers and variety. Nevertheless, a number of rare and protected birds such as kea, the New Zealand falcon, rock wrens, black stilt, wrybills, and black–fronted terns can be observed. The introduced deer, Tahr, and chamois have also found a home here and are hunted recreationally. Rabbits and possums are considered pests of the first degree and are controlled vigorously. The rivers, canals, tarns and streams are stocked with trout and salmon, providing great sport for fishermen with many world class and record fish being caught.