Hill and high country
The Kaikōura ranges are the northern and southern limits for some plant species, including the northern most population of the nationally endangered climbing broom (Carmichaelia kirkii). Weeping broom (also nationally endangered) and the largest national population of Olearia hectorii are also found in the Kaikōura mountains.
A special feature of these areas is the flora associated with screes, bluffs and limestone landscapes. There are four skink species and eight gecko species found in the ranges, including the black-eyed gecko (New Zealand’s only alpine gecko). Because of the high rainfall on the hill slopes, native vegetation is more prolific than in drier areas of Canterbury.
The Kaikōura coastline contains biodiversity ‘hot spots’ such as Kaikōura Peninsula, Haumari Bluffs and Oaro-Mikonui. It is a stronghold for coastal forest in the eastern South Island.
The upwelling of nutrient rich-waters from the Southern Ocean at Kaikōura supports dense populations of plankton and marine algae and abundant krill, squid and fish which attract many marine mammals and prolific seabird life.
There are a number of significant sites of mature and regenerating Kanuka on the flats and also a rare tītoki forest remnant. Lakes Rotorua/Rotoiti and the adjacent wetlands are very special to Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura and Ngāi Tahu.
The Kaikōura zone has a variety of river types from huge braided river systems (the Clarence River) through to short, steep coastal streams (Hapuku and Kowhai).
The Clarence River is long and has highly diverse habitat with gorges, braids, and riparian flats. The river is flanked by large tracts of forest containing endemic South Marlborough vegetation (including many threatened species).
The Hapuku and Kowhai Rivers are the best examples on the eastern coast of the South Island of rivers almost fully flanked by native vegetation from the mountains to the sea. Small coastal streams provide an unusual (for Canterbury) but important link between marine and freshwater habitats for seals and native fish populations.