Tread carefully this bird-nesting season

We’re lucky enough to have rare, ground-nesting birds such as wrybills/ngutu parore, banded dotterels/tūturiwhatu, and black-fronted terns/tarapirohe living along the Ashley River/Rakahuri and other braided rivers in Waitaha/Canterbury.

Nests are difficult to spot

Our ground-nesting birds are particularly vulnerable during nesting season, which usually lasts from September until February. Because they’re so difficult to spot, you may not realise you’re near a nest until it’s too late. The best way to protect these precious birds is to stay away from them altogether during nesting season.

Give our rare birds a chance

Parks and Forests Manager Chuck Dowdell says recent heavy rain has already resulted in considerable movement of established nesting colonies along the Ashley/Rakahuri. “We’re anxious about the success of the colonies this year,” Chuck said. “We ask people to avoid walking or driving in the riverbed for the remainder of the nesting season. Let’s give our rare birds a chance to nest and raise their young.”

Don’t delay – move away

If you happen to disturb nesting birds, it’s important to move away from the area as quickly as possible. If parent birds stay away from their nests for more than 10 minutes, their eggs will get chilled and their chicks will die. If there is sustained disturbance from humans, animals, or vehicles, the birds may abandon their colony entirely.

Look out for signs

The key bird-nesting sites on the riverbed are clearly marked with signs. Please take special care to avoid those areas. Bear in mind that birds may abandon their colonies and relocate to other sites, so keep looking out for colonies or pairs of birds even in areas with no signs visible.

Restrictions along the river

Environment Canterbury, the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Waimakariri District Council each manage access to different parts of the Rakahuri/Ashley River, which means different rules apply in each area. Warning signs are up in each area to explain restrictions and remind you that under the Wildlife Act, it is an offence to disturb or harm native wildlife.

In the Rakahuri Estuary and Northern Pegasus Bay, vehicles are highly restricted, with some very limited seasonal access available for mahinga kai and whitebait. Permits are required in some cases. For more information, read this guide to vehicles on the beach (and estuary) from Waimakariri District Council.

Environment Canterbury manages the area upstream from the estuary, all the way to the Okuku River. In this area, there is restricted vehicle access until 1 February 2023.

DOC manages the area upstream of the Okuku River. DOC is advising all visitors to avoid disrupting any of the bird nesting sites during nesting season.

Please refer to the 'Restricted Riverbed Access' map to see more detail about bird nesting areas and vehicle restrictions along the Ashley River/Rakahuri.

Valuable Volunteers

The hard-working volunteers at the Ashley Rakahuri Rivercare Group do regular surveys of the various bird populations along the river. Find out more information and support their important mahi at the Ashley Rakahuri Rivercare Group website.