The Ō Tū Wharekai Wetland Restoration Project encompasses the Ashburton lakes complex and upper Rangitata River in the high country of mid Canterbury. It consists of 4030 ha of wetlands, 1186 ha of lakes, 12,236 ha of braided river and 26 ha of ephemeral turfs, as well as interconnecting streams.
Ō Tū Wharekai supports a diverse range of habitats, largely due to the glacial landforms that shaped the landscape. The lakes and wetlands have been designated as ‘Areas of Significant Nature Conservation Value’ in the Ashburton District Plan. Ō Tū Wharekai encompasses the upper Rangitata River, which contains one of two of the most important breeding sites for the threatened wrybill/ngutu pare. Ashburton lakes are also an important site for kettleholes which support rare ephemeral turf vegetation. Through the Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998, a Statutory Acknowledgement and Deed of Recognition is in place to formally acknowledge the association and values Ō Tū Wharekai holds for Ngāi Tahu.
The Ō Tū Wharekai Wetland Restoration Project is part of the Arawai Kākāriki Wetland Restoration Programme, which was initiated in 2007 by the Department of Conservation. Ō Tū Wharekai has three main aims: 1) increase our knowledge of the wetland values and functions of Ō Tū Wharekai to aid wetlands nationally; 2) undertake management to improve the status of species and habitats; and 3) increase awareness of wetlands through education and community input.
Key conservation outcomes to date include undertaking extensive inventories and monitoring of key species and habitats to assess status and threats to conservation values; working in partnership with iwi in developing restoration goals and prioritising work; undertaking extensive weed control programmes of willow, broom and lupin; establishing recreation facilities that reduce visitor impacts on the wetlands while increasing satisfaction and awareness of the wetlands; increased partnerships with stakeholders and community groups leading to greater conservation achievement; and developing greater education opportunities leading to increased awareness and involvement of wetland conservation values.
Continued investment in Ō Tū Wharekai is crucial to restore and manage the values and impacts in this nationally significant area. The work that Ō Tū Wharekai has done, or will do, will continue to develop tools and methodologies to help inform wetlands managers throughout New Zealand on many issues.
This report describes the conservation outcomes using data/indicators to report on the status of the site, as well as our engagement with the community. The report also provides key directives for future involvement at Ō Tū Wharekai.
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Authors: Wendy Sullivan, Hugh Robertson, Rosemary Clucas, Lorraine Cook and Kennedy Lange
Published by: Department of Conservation, Christchurch
ISBN: 978-478-14951-7 (web)