River mouth strategy ready after consultation

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The management of the Ashburton River Mouth is a balancing act between recreational users and its...
The management of the Ashburton River Mouth is a balancing act between recreational users and its cultural and ecological factors.
A part of the Ashburton/Hakatere River Mouth management strategy is about to be put into place after months of community consultation involving recreational users, members of conservation groups and government organisations.

It will include fencing-off and restricting access to protect a wildlife reserve, planting across old tracks and moving vehicle and fishers access but still allowing them to get to the river’s edge or river mouth.

Environment Canterbury land management and biodiversity adviser Donna Field said, during an address to the Ashburton Water Zone Committee, it had been a challenging issue as the river was used by many people including whitebaiters, bird watchers, fishers, 4WD and hunters.

It was also an area rife with bird life and fish species so discussion had involved runanga, Environment Canterbury, Ashburton District Council, Department of Conservation, Land Information New Zealand and Fish & Game New Zealand and the New Zealand Jet Boaters Association.

Some of the conflict between users was around dog and vehicle access.

Ms Field said land had been allocated for a 4WD park for enthusiasts to access for their recreational pleasure. And people could still drive up and down the spit, she said, but every effort was also being taken to protect the bird nesting area for banded dotterals and tern.

"It was not an easy plan."

In time a wetland/salt marsh area could be explored but it was not a priority at this stage.

"What we’re dealing with at the moment are the management actions that we have put into the high priority," she said.

Priorities included temporary fencing and signage around the breeding colonies, a predator control continuation with the current programme being run through volunteer groups Hakatere Hut Holders and Forest and Bird, and ongoing pest plant control in the river bed.

"The next stage is the formation and support of a management group to help us do that so we make sure there’s more involvement, there are people involved in the community.

"That’s if we can get people to come into it."

Led by Environment Canterbury, the strategy was designed to ensure the ongoing management and enhancement of the ecological and cultural aspects of the area allowed recreational access.

It has involved a balancing act to best accommodate all parties.

A document, drafted after eight month’s of background research, was carried out on the values and uses of the area. It included data from a user survey carried out last summer and community meetings in February and June.

In preparing the document, consultant Ines Stager presented results of a report from ornithologist Andrew Crossland who was a visitor to the area since the early 1990s, and regularly over the last three years.

He carried out monthly bird counts to give an understanding of the increased seasonal numbers of birds at the site and to explain ongoing wildlife management initiatives.

His count found 34 different bird species during the 2018-19 study period, with almost 10,000 recorded on September 14, 2018.

"Within the context of biodiversity and nature conservation in the Ashburton District, the river mouth has the highest avian species richness of any site within the district (ahead of the Rangitata and Hinds river mouths)," Mr Crossland said, in his report.

Environment Canterbury freshwater ecologist Graeme Clarke presented information about the values present in the springfed stream entering the Ashburton River at Ashton Beach.

There were 11 different fish species recorded in the stream including variety of size of tuna/eels caught showing they had been present in the waterway for some time, and pregnant inanga highlighting the likelihood the area was used as a spawning ground by this species. There were also mudfish recorded.

 

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