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Conservation value assessment and management plan

Several plants, animals and their unique habitats including coastal dongas, exist on private lands within the District. To learn more about these unique values that may be present on your property or technical advice on new planting/restoration program, the Council is interested in working with landowners and community groups to explore options for ecological survey and best management practices to protect and enhance the biodiversity.

Please contact the Council’s Ecologist/Biodiversity Advisor - email or call +64 3 307 7700, if you would like to find out more.

Biodiversity Strategy 2024

In June 2022, a recommendation was made to the Ashburton District Council to elevate the then lapsed Biodiversity Action Plan into a community-wide and community led Biodiversity Strategy. Together with key stakeholders Council prepared a document and consulted with the  community on this draft strategy in October-November 2023. Submitters presented their feedback at the Council hearings  in December and the final strategy 'Our Natural Place' was adopted in March 2024.

Read the final strategy here

Biodiversity Project Site Survey

The Biodiversity Project Site survey is to be used by organisations/individuals to enter information on their biodiversity project sites within the Ashburton District, including existing natural vegetation sites, completed and on-going restoration planting projects.

Biodiversity Project Site Survey Link

Biodiversity Project Site Survey

The purpose of the Ashburton District Biodiversity Advisory Group is to:

  • Facilitate the implementation of the Ashburton District Biodiversity Action Plan
  • Maintain partnerships between local and regional organisations with an interest in the management of indigenous biodiversity
  • Provide a forum for discussion and community-wide promotion of biodiversity
  • Be a conduit for the Council relationship building with the landowner and general public where appropriately

The group meets four times a year to discuss emerging biodiversity issues within the district.

View the current members of the Biodiversity Advisory Group

Biodiversity Restoration projects

Wakanui Beach is a coastal public reserve that has significant scientific value and provides a unique example of rare coastal vegetation and biodiversity including 26 species of native plants, some classified as ‘threatened – at risk’, 52 insect species, lizards and many bird species. The biodiversity found here and at nearby Five Star Beef, is more diverse than any other place on the plains of Ashburton. The site is largely undisturbed and provide a unique example of coastal vegetation and biodiversity for the enjoyment of residents and visitors to the Ashburton District, which includes fishing, gathering gemstones such as agate, beach walking and camping.

Wakanui Beach is also a historic and important “mahinga kai” site for “manawhenua” and a highly significant archaeological site with many Māori artefacts, including moa bones and pounamu tools. Wakanui Community interest in the restoration project is high which led to formation of Wakanui Beach Crew group in 2017 and the Wakanui School has also become an important part of restoration efforts.  The main focus of the restoration is extending areas of native species and restoring others significant sites.

Planting occurs on last weekend on March and early April every year. This is a combined project between the Wakanui Community Crew and the ADC to restore the Wakanui creek to its original form.

Lake Camp/Clearwater forms part of the O Tu Wharekai Ashburton lakes, located on Hakatere/Potts road.  The landscape is outstanding in the District Plan and also a backdrop to the Lord of Rings TV series. The area is notable for hunting, fishing, mountain biking, outdoor walking trail and camping opportunities. The lakes itself is provides recreational activities such as wind surfing, sailing, kayaking, bird watching, swimming, and prominent for sport fishery within Canterbury region. It is also an important habitat for crested grebe, freshwater and other plant and animal species.

The area around Lake Camp is owned by the Department of Conservation DOC land vested in the Ashburton District Council to manage. Over the years the area has been managed mainly through self-regulation with assistance from Council, hutholders and volunteer groups have all been involved. The toilets were largely funded by a grant from central government to help manage the issues around increasing tourism.

Despite the values, the Lake Clearwater and Lake Camp areas contain several wilding tree species which are spreading into adjoining private farmlands and conservation land. The area is also being threatened by flood, uncontrolled 4WD around the lake beds/valleys and fire, dogs, feral cats and other pests, vandalism and littering by campers. To preserve the Lakes environment and its beauty, the Ashburton District Council developed and adopted a Landscape Management Plan in 2017 to prioritized weed control, replace the wilding pines with native vegetation, and enhance the natural area for tourist attractions.  Wilding Pine removal has been largely funded by the MPI through ECan and ADC in 2017 and in 2022 to remove Pinus contorta, the wilding pine main seed sources. The Ashburton District Council through its Biodiversity Advisory Group and team of volunteers including Forest and Birds control weeds such as wilding pine Pinus contorta, rowans, brooms, Lupins and gorse around the lakes. This event occurs annually in spring and autumn, while restoration planting occurs during term 3 school holidays in September/October annually.

For interest in the projects/participation, suggestions or donation for native planting, please contact the Council Ecologist/Biodiversity Advisor using or call 03 307 7700. For list of native vegetation planted or existing at Lake Camp/ Lake Clearwater, please visit this page for the Landscape management plan adopted by the ADC in 2017.

The Harris Scientific Reserve, is a Council own conservation plots which is managed by the Ashburton Community Conservation Trust (ACCT). The ACCT was set up by Forest and Bird Ashburton to help foster conservation initiative at the grassroots. The Scientific Reserve is 10 kilometers from Ashburton town, protects the remnant of Canterbury dry-land plain tree such Manuka, Kanuka, cabbage, flaxes, Coprosma sp..

Arthur and Shirley Harris purchased a 121.4 h of land in 1964 for their agricultural venture. Because there was no shelter, they decided to fence the 2.5 h of the best Kanuka and the section as a shelter. The original paddock of 16.3 h was still in Kanuka of variable sizes, which are cut and used as firewood source. In 1965, Arthur and Shirley Harris asked the District Council to push any remaining stumps of kanuka into windrows with a road grader. These were burned, land ploughed and converted into pasture. In 1988, Dr Brian Molloy negotiated with the Harris family to create a Queen Elizabeth II Tryst covenant over the 2.4 has used as shelter with kanukas on the perimeter. On assessment, Arthur and Shirley discovered a native Clemantis in full bloom climbing along the Kanuka. The importance of this site increased considerably when it was discovered that this species in undescribed, adapted in both dry and cold environments and characterized by its small stature, with very small leaves, flowers and seed capsules, said Dr Molloy.

The site was later purchased by the Ashburton District Council. In 2006, after a visit to the site with then Mayor, Bede O’Malley, Forest and Bird wrote to the Council suggesting that the covenant be administered by the a trust set up by Forest and Bird Ashburton.  They also suggested that the paddock between the covenant and Lovetts road be included as a larger size to ensure a greater survival of the natives, and of regaining the community associated with the Kanuka plants. In august 2006, Forest and Bird members propagated 120 seedlings of Kanuka which were planted on the site. Planting continued in 2009/2010 with 1200 kanuka, Coprosma sp., Muehlenbeckia sp., Melicytus sp. with two planting days that attracted over 60 members of the public.  In 2010, F&B set up the Ashburton Community Conservation Trust (ACCT) to administer the reserve and a license to occupy was issued to the ACCT by the council in an official opening ceremony on 18th 2010.

In the same year, the Scientific Reserve was selected by Gordon Hosking and the Trust as one of the 17 living legends projects associated with Rugby World Cup, supported by Meridian Energy, Department of Conservation and the Tindall Foundation. Ten thousand native trees were planted at each site in association with All Blacks and living legend chose for Harris Sci. Res was Jock Ross. The living legend also provided fund for purchase of three plastic tanks and small pump for easy watering when needed. Another 2000 kanuka propagated at the DOC Motukara nursery were planted in 2011.

Since then, over 50,000 natives have been planted at the reserve. HSR has become a place where rare plants from the Ashburton District are safe to grow, eventually to recreate the dry shrubland ecosystem that was once so common. It has provided a haven for insects, lizards and birds that cannot exist on farmland, became an educational resource for students and the district’s children, and seed source for restoration projects and private nurseries. Already the reserve has been visited by a garden club and used by a horticulture student as a resource. Planting is a minor part of managing the site. Hundreds of volunteer hours go into propagation, preparation of sites, weeding, rematting, spraying and general maintenance.

Ashton Beach Enhancement project site is a Council open space reserve with high biodiversity values. The beach comprises of rare native shrubland/grassland and unique coastal dongas extending into the Council owned Ocean farm with strips of native vegetation, undisturbed gravel surfaces with mosses, lichens, and fungi. Ashton Beach is adjoined by the Hakatere river mouth, an important breeding site of rare bird species in New Zealand and Department of Conservation land on the coast. These tiny ecosystem is rare in Ashburton where cultivation is intensive and ubiquitous. The coastal steep donga has been used as a motorbike track for several years, but was fenced off in 2020 due to health and safety concerns from the public following a community consultation and constitution of Council committee for the site development.

An ecological survey undertaken by Di Roberson in May 2020 and previously by Mike Harding confirmed that the site also has some remnant of Ashburton low plain native vegetation such as silver tussock (locally uncommon), Phormium tenax, danthonia grassland, Muehlenbeckia ephedroides (Threatened - Nationally vulnerable), Lepidium, and an indigenous moss Hypnum cupressiforme. To further understand the ecological value of the site, the Ashburton District Council in 2019, underwent a lizard survey, led by Marieke Lettink (Fauna Finders), and discovered that the site is an important habitat of a Southern grass skink, likely to support a minimum density of 200−1000 skinks.  This species has conservation status of ‘At Risk –‘. Management plan and future direction for this important site is under development in consultation with Forest and Bird who has indicated interest in managing the site and Environment Canterbury.

Learn more about biodiversity

Biodiversity describes the variety of the natural world. This includes plants, animal fungi and microorganisms, the genes they contain and the ecosystems that they are a part of.

Biodiversity helps the important natural processes that sustain our life on this planet - such as purifying air and water, producing raw materials, decomposing waste and recycling soil nutrients.

The natural processes that biodiversity supports are becoming strained all over the world, because of increasing levels of human consumption and industrial production. Biodiversity loss is occurring on a large scale all over the world, including New Zealand.

New Zealand is a biodiversity 'hotspot', with many of our species only found in our country (endemic species).

There are many ways you can get involved:

  • Get to know more about the biodiversity around you - it's in your backyard, and at your local park!
  • Plant native trees, shrubs and ground-​​​cover to attract insects and birds
  • Get involved in groups and projects happening in your community

    • Volunteer for Council organized restoration program and weed control

    For inquiry please contact us at or call  03 307 7700 to speak with the Ecologist/Biodiversity Advisor for biodiversity related questions/projects on private farmlands, schools or in the community.

Council has a contestable grant scheme for community biodiversity projects.

Learn more about our grants and funding opportunities

View the available funding opportunities here

216 new markers have been installed at significant sites around Ashburton District to help increase awareness of important native plantings on the district's roadsides with two markers for each site.

By identifying these sites, Council is better placed to be able to ensure the protection of the vegetation.

Download a copy of the Native Vegetation Pamphlet