To ensure they get the best view of the new Matu scientific
reserve, near Wanaka, visitors are advised to get down on
their hands and knees.
That way, there is the chance of spotting an extremely rare
Pericoptis frontalis (scarab beetle) or a Hexathele petriei
(tunnel web spider).
From a distance, the 165ha scientific reserve could easily
appear to be nothing more than a barren piece of wasteland.
But Dunedin-based Department of Conservation partnership
ranger, biologist John Barkla, told the Otago Daily
Times this week the reserve contains many of the plants
and insects common throughout the Upper Clutha before the
arrival of agriculture.
''There's a really interesting array of both plants and
animals which don't immediately strike you. But get down on
your hands and knees and you start to see the diversity.''
The reserve is at Long Gully, and lies between the
Wanaka-Tarras road and the Clutha River, opposite Jolly Rd.
Mr Barkla said the value of the area was first noted in
1984-85 during a programme that identified the best remaining
examples of indigenous vegetation in districts throughout New
''That was kind of the starting point to our recognition that
there was something special here.''
The reserve contains native wasps including one that hunts
tunnel web spiders.
There are also species of native bees, grasshoppers, cicadas,
moths and butterflies, and birds such as banded dotterel and
pipits had been recorded breeding there.
Mr Barkla said the land had been ''under threat'' because the
holder of the pastoral lease wanted to install pivot
''He saw the future for it being in farming.''
However, during the recently completed tenure review, the
land had become public conservation land.
''We were successful in persuading Land Information New
Zealand, which manages those leases, that it actually had
higher values for conservation.''
Mr Barkla said the land had ''dry terrace'' herbs, grasses,
cushion plants and low shrubs that were characteristic of the
Upper Clutha in the past and were now relatively uncommon.
Two herbs growing in the reserve were considered to be
''We regard the Long Gully Terraces there as probably the
largest and most intact example of that semi-arid cushion
terrace vegetation in the Clutha Valley.''
Mr Barkla said the reserve had some weeds, such as briar and
wilding pine, and rabbits.
''Rabbits are a bit of a double-edged sword.
''At moderate levels they can keep the lid on weedy shrub
species and grasses but if you get too many they start to eat
Mr Barkla said the cushion plants were quite hardy, although
users of the river-access track running through the reserve
are requested not to drive on the reserve.
''For a lot of people, they are going to see it as maybe an
open public space with access to the river - a place where
they can go wandering and enjoy nature on its own terms.
''You will see vineyards and agricultural developments going
on around it, but it will at least be an area of 165ha which
will be managed for nature.
''As time goes on, I think people will value that more and