Protecting the Hakatere / Ashburton River mouth

The mouth of the Hakatere / Ashburton River is a hugely important place for the Ashburton region for many reasons. It has cultural and historical value, provides a range of recreational opportunities, and is a vital biodiversity hotspot, visited by nesting and roosting birds.

Ashburton River

But ongoing concerns over the compatibility between these values led to the decision to develop a management strategy for the area.

The development of this strategy was led by Environment Canterbury with input from landowners and custodians, including the Ashburton District Council, Department of Conservation, Land Information New Zealand and Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua. Also involved were recreational users, community members and key stakeholders, including Fish & Game, Ashburton Forest & Bird, Hakatere Hut Holders, and the Mid-Canterbury 4WD club.

The strategy, which was produced by consultants, provides a variety of recommendations to protect and enhance the internationally significant bird habitat as well as to provide for recreation opportunities and cultural values.

A sanctuary for wildlife

One of the study’s key recommendations is the development of an enhanced area for birdlife at the river mouth. The establishment of this area is a way we can recognise and protect the significant biodiversity values of the region. It can also serve as a driver for changing the culture of use.

In response to these recommendations, we have developed a plan to protect and enhance the biodiversity values of the site, while allowing access for recreational activities. A second, modified plan was created after consultation with individuals and groups that objected to aspects of the first plan.

A meeting was held with key stakeholders in late 2019, in which the implementation of the Hakatere / Ashburton River Mouth Strategy was discussed, and an implementation plan presented. This plan prioritises suggested actions, taking into account cost and timing.

Shag colony at the Ashburton / Hakatere rivermouth. Credit: Andrew Crossland

Shag colony at the Ashburton / Hakatere rivermouth. Photo credit: Andrew Crossland

What's happening first?

Regular visitors to the river mouth will see a continuation of the work undertaken over previous seasons to protect nesting colonies from disturbance and pests. New work over the next two years will include:

  • The formation of a management group to oversee the implementation of priority actions
  • Fencing, planting and track formation to manage vehicle access and routes
  • New signage to help users and visitors learn about the values of the area and how they can enjoy their recreation activities without disturbing the important habitat.

For more on the Hakatere / Ashburton River Mouth Strategy, please contact Donna Field.