RUBY ISLAND A JEWEL IN LAKE WANAKA OTAGO NEW ZEALAND.
Ruby Island was originally known as Roys Island, named
after the area's original pioneer settler from whom, the bay where
the town of Wanaka is situated, the nearby Peninsula and Peak
are also named. Another name for it, shown on early maps, was
Merino Island. This theme of pastoral animal names may be connected
with some of the other Lake Wanaka islands called Bull and Ram
(Now Moua Tapu).The Maori name is Matakitaki ( To gaze upon )
named by the Ngatimamoe Chief who opened up the link between the
West Coast and Wanaka. The origination of the name Ruby is not
known but it is thought that it comes from the island's shape
and the fact that it is a jewel on the lake.The Island was formed
from remnants of Glacial rock about 20,000 years ago. Because
it is situated in a dry zone receiving only about 640 millimetres
of rain per annum the original vegetation was generally stunted
shrubs and trees, consisting of Kanuka, Manuka, Flax, Kowhai,
Corokia, Coprosma, Cabbage trees and Pitasporams.
It was gazetted as a reserve in 1886 and was administered by the
Wanaka Domain Board. Up until 1988 the Queenstown Lakes District
Lakes District Council administered all 5 islands on Lake Wanaka.
After 1988 the Department of Conversation took over administration
of all Islands except for Ruby which remains under the control
of the QLDC managing a Department of Conservation approved plan.
The island is home to native mountain ghekos and giant ground
The islands close proximity to Wanaka make it an ideal picnic
spot for boat owners, kayakers and sometimes even swimmers. The
handiness of the Island also means some of the many visitors do
not appreciate the facilities there and unfortunately vandalism
is common and so have been destructive fires. If this site can
in some way encourage people to take an interest in the wellbeing
of this precious jewel and the many other beautiful places on
this planet the writer will be well satisfied. Ian Gazzard Editor.
Sadly Ruby Island has suffered from many fires over the last
120 years or so the latest being in 1992. After this disaster
which ruined many previous years of work by local volunteer groups
a decision was made to place water tanks in a strategic site for
irrigation and fire control. The successful installation of this
in 1995 has greatly assisted in the re-establishment of many trees
with the emphasis in planting native species. A gas operated,
free to use, barbecue also enables visitors to enjoy a picnic
without lighting fires which are prohibited.
View from Rippon Vineyard pre 1992 fire.
View from Rippon Vineyard 2001 post fire, showing new
Commercial activities are not allowed on Ruby Island although
a tea rooms cabaret was built in the lates 1920's, by the Hunt
family who ran the ferry service on Lake Wanaka, which lasted
about 3 years, The building was salvaged and most parts were removed
to Wanaka. The old flag stones and foundation piles are still
visible in the natural depression on top of the island.
The rustic beech poles which supported the cabaret
are clearly visible. circa 1929.
Cabaret site showing the old concrete piles and surrounding
flag stone porch. Top looking north. Lower looking south. Winter
Island revisited - L. to R. George Studholme former
Wanaka Domain Board Chairman, Gwenda Rowlands nee Manson , Ruth
Hunt, Joan Robertson nee Manson, Sally Gazzard , Bill Hunt son
of former cabaret proprieter John Hunt.
Ruby Island along with the other Islands on Lake Wanaka
is home to the giant ground weta. This insect is now only living
in a few remote places in Otago.
Hemideina Maori - Giant Ground Weta
These are some fish caught in Lake Wanaka on the same
day near Ruby Island and show an example of the three species
of game fish available.
Left to right Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout and Quinnat
Salmon which are now land locked due to hydro electricity dams
being constructed on the Clutha river.
Local Wanaka volunteers at a working bee held on 3rd
December 2005 when a seat to the late Q.L.D.C. councillor Peter
Rennie was dedicated in appreciation of the work and time he gave
in helping with the on going work to beautify and restore Ruby
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