Pre-human habitat protected by purchase

A block of South Canterbury land rich with native plants that existed before human habitation will be preserved after the Nature Heritage Fund purchased it.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage today announced the formal protection of 19 hectares of uncultivated land, 5 kilometres north east of Geraldine, purchased from the Ellery family who have owned the site since 1886.

The family offered the land to the Fund for purchase after it was declared a significant natural area under the RMA, because they wanted it properly protected for the future. 

Part of the Coopers Creek flood plain, land that lies between the Rangitata and Orari Rivers, has now been transferred to the Crown for protection as conservation land.

“The Ellery family’s decision to sell this land to the Nature Heritage Fund is much appreciated and means this very special site will be preserved,” Ms Sage said.

“The land is a rare example of a floodplain where native mosses, herbs, grasses and shrubs have been able to survive or recolonise. The fact that the land hasn’t been cultivated or subjected to intensive land use makes it ecologically important.

“Less than 20 per cent of New Zealand’s native vegetation has survived the arrival of humans so it’s important to save sites like this one, which is home to one of the largest known populations of the threatened native plant, leafless pohuehue. “

Other native plants at the site include creeping pohuehue, scrub pohuehue, patotara, small kowhai trees, mahoe or porcupine shrub and blue wheat grass.

“This site also provides good habitat for native lizards, in particular common skink, which have suffered widespread habit loss on the Canterbury Plain. The lizards eat mahoe berries and the shrub provides them with good ground cover.”

Native birds found at the site include riroriro/ grey warbler, kahu /swamp harrier and karoro /southern black backed gulls.

The Nature Heritage Fund was established in 1990 to help protect the indigenous ecosystems of Aotearoa through direct purchase or covenant on a willing buyer/ willing seller basis. The Ellery purchase cost the Fund $285,000.

To date, over 343,000 hectares has been approved for protection through the Fund.

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