Lake Hood, 20 years in the making

Former chairman of the Ashburton Aquatic park charitable trust David West at Lake Hood.

Lake Hood marked a milestone recently turning 20 years old.

Lake Hood was a project born from a man’s vision and brought to fruition through the work of a group of dedicated people.

David West, a Wakanui farmer and former chairman of the Ashburton Aquatic Park Charitable Trust, lived in one of the first four houses built on the lake.

David said it all started when Ken Kingsbury, a helicopter pilot and keen windsurfer wanted a lake, “when he was flying around he thought gosh, it would be great to have a lake close by, so he called a public meeting, and about 70 people went to that.”

They soon formed a committee of 15 people, then an executive was created, “so we had an executive of six people and that started to drive it, then that turned into a charitable trust when we needed to raise money,” David said.

The land where the lake is located was originally farmland owned by Malcolm Stewart.

The location was found by Doug Hood and other committee members driving and flying around the area, “they identified a bend in the river and thought this bit of river on poor farmland would possibly work. But it was more because the land became available,” David said.

In the beginning the lake was a controversial project dividing opinions in Ashburton.

“Half the people truly didn’t want it to be here, and the other half were keen,” David said. “Some people thought we couldn’t create a lake on riverbed type land, they thought it wouldn’t hold water, other people were worried about rate money going into it. But it was all fundraised apart from a small amount of money from the council.”

“It has been fantastic since then having people come and say were opposed to it, but we were wrong’. A lot of people recognise the benefit to Ashburton and the whole of Canterbury. A lot of Christchurch come down and use it,” he said.

David has fond memories of having one of the first houses built on the lake.

“It was great in the early days because we knew everybody, it was fun to show people through our house so they could get an idea what it would be like.”

Over the years the community has grown and matured with around 260 houses currently occupied, with new titles always coming up, the original concept was to have around 500 houses.

“It’s an incredible community now, because of active friendly people, here you know who your neighbours are, they are all active interesting people out there, biking or kayaking or boating a whole lot of interesting things.

“If you go for a walk, it takes twice as long because you stop and have a yarn with someone.”

The lake is a drawcard for tourists, but the main visitors are locals enjoying a day out visiting the lake or having a meal at The Lake House restaurant.

“Originally the consultant we used said the biggest use for the lake would be passive, and that’s exactly what it is. People come to look at the water, walk around it and picnic beside it. There is something like 100,000 cars that come in here every year. It’s local people coming out for a visit.”

The other area of growth and opportunity is commercial development on the lake, with the popular Lake House paving the way as a well known destination for culinary delights, there are commercially titled areas around The Lake House available for entrepreneurs to set up shop.

“I think there are opportunity for motels, a little deli, or dairy, or coffee shop,” David said. “It’s a tremendous lifestyle opportunity for someone. We never promoted it, because the lake was fundraised by Ashburton people so we didn’t want to take business from the town.”

High density living is another area that could take off at the lake, with opportunities to have apartments built.

“There have been so many people involved in what was a truly community thing, right back to the days of the original committee, a lot of those people are still enthusiastic and still involved,” David said.

-By Daniel Tobin