The Ashburton zone features the iconic Ō Tū Wharekai wetlands system, the Ashburton River/Hakatere and the Harris Scientific Reserve.
Ō Tū Wharekai wetlands
The Ō Tū Wharekai wetlands system includes the 12 Ashburton lakes, emphemeral turfs, streams, swamps and bogs. This area is currently part of the Department of Conservation's Arawai Kakariki programme which aims to enhance the ecological restoration of three of New Zealand's foremost wetland/freshwater sites, making use of strong community involvement and promoting research into wetland restoration techniques. Ō Tū Wharekai is one of the best examples of an unspoiled, intact, inter-montane wetland system remaining in New Zealand, and provides a habitat for nationally significant species.
Find out more information about Ō Tū Wharekai wetlands.
The Ashburton River/Hakatere is an important source of water for the region, as well as providing recreation and biodiversity benefits. The Hakatere hapua (river mouth lagoon) is home to the world's only large roosting colony of spotted shags. It also has large runs of the endemic stockells smelt (sliveries), and provides a feeding ground for the wrybill. In the spring time, a large colony of black billed gulls, the world's rarest gull, nests on the braided river bed, building nests out of drift wood and stones and raising chicks.
Harris Scientific Reserve
Harris Scientific Reserve in Lovetts Rd, near Tinwald, protects one of the last stands of dryland kanuka in Canterbury. The 2.5-hectare paddock and surrounding kanuka stand was purchased by the Ashburton District Council along with an adjoining 8ha.
Arthur Harris, the former owner of the property, set up a QEII covenant to protect the ancient and undisturbed kanuka. Forest & Bird were granted a license to occupy the land by the council on the condition a trust was set up to manage the site. The area is now managed by the Ashburton Community Conservation Trust.