ECO-SANCTUARIES IN AOTEAROA
Significant eco-sanctuaries are found in or near Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Wellington, Nelson, Queenstown/Wanaka and Dunedin. Sanctuary Mountain (Hamilton) is one of the largest predator-proof ecosanctuary projects in the world. The sanctuary is 3400 hectares with a 47km predator-proof fence and is home to birds, bats, frogs and weka. The variety of eco-sanctuaries range from a few hectares to 3400 hectares and four of the seven are fully enclosed with a predator-proof fence.
There are approximately 80 eco-sanctuaries around New Zealand and there is a mutual goal across the country to preserve and protect our native and natural wildlife and species.
The best known eco-sanctuary is Zealandia, which is a fully fenced facility occupying a water catchment in the middle of urban Wellington. It extends over 225 hectares and, since it was instigated in 1999, has generated a range of benefits:
Zealandia has reintroduced 18 different species (e.g. New Zealand falcon, pied shag)
Zealandia is now home to some of Aotearoa's most rare and endangered wildlife (tui, kaka and kererū).
Zealandia is habitat for 80 percent of native plants that are not found in anywhere else in the world
The benefits of eco-sanctuaries are on-going and enclosed eco-sanctuaries are allowing our biodiversity and native species to thrive.
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TRAVIS WETLAND RESERVE
Christchurch is built on a mix of two gravel beds from the Waimakariri River. The Travis Wetland Reserve is very much like the swamplands would have been in pre-European times. Only 2% of these wetlands remain in Christchurch and Travis Wetland is the largest freshwater wetland. Ngai Tāhu seasonally used the wetlands to gather and eat resources from the wetlands including kereru, raupo seed and eel. Now this area is home to wetland birds, plants and insects: 77% of Canterbury’s native freshwater birds have been found here.
In 1989, the wetlands were owned by Travis Estates for suburban development. However, campaigning against suburban development gained traction and protecting the wetlands became a priority. The area contained native manuka and sundew plants that were gradually becoming extinct in New Zealand. A group, now called Travis Wetland Trust, began to work with Christchurch City Council to keep this land as a wetland and organise restoration plans. Ngai Tāhu was also involved in these discussions to ensure their environmental, spiritual and cultural values were protected.
The city council purchased the land in 1996 and the wetlands became a designated park location. With help of volunteers, the Trust and the council have been able to monitor and work on a diverse range of issues. Weeds are an ongoing issue because they grow faster than native species. Grey willows are a key concern because they are so invasive. This process requires a lot of upkeep and maintenance.
THE RED ZONE
Before the Canterbury earthquakes, over 5000 households lived along the Ōtākaro Avon river corridor. The land was badly damaged by liquefaction during the quakes, and as a result was deemed unsuitable for housing. It became the residential red zone (RRZ) with the Crown buying most of the properties. The RRZ is nearly twice the size of Manhattan's Central Park and is four times larger than Hagley Park.
The houses have been demolished since 2012 and most of the roads closed. To shape future uses of the area, Regenerate Christchurch developed the Ōtākaro Avon River Regeneration Plan, based on extensive public consultation between 2016 and 2018. This allows for about half of the area to be a ‘green spine’, guaranteeing public access to the river, and allowing for native forest and wetland regeneration. The rest of the RRZ is set aside for projects, such as the Waitākiri eco-sanctuary. This will integrate with the green spine, and complement it in both ecological and recreational terms.