Monarch butterfly bid announced

Oamaru could soon be the monarch butterfly capital of New Zealand.

On Wednesday night, newly formed group Friends of the Monarch Butterfly hosted an event at the Loan and Merc and formally announced its campaign to increase the local butterfly population.

Its first step is to grow more more swan plants and nectar plants in Oamaru - thousands of them.

Waitaki Community Gardens head gardener Gordon Martin has made a good start, and his project has attracted the support of the Rotary Club of Oamaru, Yates and the Monarch Butterflies of New Zealand Trust.

Mr Martin, who has grown more than 1000 swan plants in several locations around Oamaru over the past 18 months, said the two-year goal was to make sure everyone who was interested in the project each had at least six swan plants in their gardens.

"The main objective is to encourage butterflies in Oamaru.

"We are already getting reports of people all over Oamaru seeing butterflies in places they had never seen them before."

Waitaki Community Gardens head gardener Gordon Martin (left), who has grown 1000 swan plants over...
Waitaki Community Gardens head gardener Gordon Martin (left), who has grown 1000 swan plants over the past 18 months, talks to Fenwick School pupils about his project. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON
Mr Martin, who has been volunteering at the Waitaki Community Gardens for about eight years, had no idea the initiative would grow in the way it had and he got a buzz out of seeing the community get so excited over monarch butterfly sightings.

In August, Oamaru residents were delighted to see a mass of orange brightening up the Oamaru Public Gardens as hundreds of monarch butterflies fed on Scottish heather plants.

Mr Martin said the group had decided to promote the project by involving 21 schools in North Otago.

The Waitaki District Council had also asked the group to create a "butterfly friendly" area in the Oamaru Public Gardens, Mr Martin said.

Butterfly Musketeer founder Maria Romero, who was the guest speaker at Wednesday night's "Guide to Monarch Butterflies" event, visited Fenwick School yesterday to speak to pupils about what they could do to help increase the local butterfly population.

"It's just bringing the awareness to the children to have the magic of a life cycle of a monarch butterfly in their classrooms every day throughout the summer," Ms Romero said.

"It teaches them so much, it connects them to nature. It's an entrance into the doorway of nature.

"They know they want monarch butterflies through different generations, and by learning about the life cycle in the classroom it gives them all the tools to continue to do it with their parents at home or in their own garden."

Oamaru's bid to become the monarch butterfly capital of New Zealand has strong backing from the Monarch Butterflies of New Zealand Trust.

Trust secretary Jacqui Knight said monarch butterfly numbers appeared to be declining in most parts of the country.

"It's not only the effects of human impact ... but biological threats are increasing each year with the arrival of new wasps in particular.

"Well done to Gordon Martin and the others in his team for working on the project.

"We offer them, and everyone seeking more information on the monarch butterfly, our wholehearted support."


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