The Ashley-Rakahuri Rivercare Group is a community group formed in 1999 to assist with management of the lower reaches of the Ashley River. Its main aims are to protect birds and their habitat in the riverbed, to monitor breeding success, and to promote these activities to the wider public. In 2005, the Group became an incorporated society. The Group works in close association with DOC, ECan and the Waimakariri District Council, with current major funding being supplied by the World Wildlife Fund.
The braided rivers of the South Island are a unique habitat of outstanding importance to endemic wildlife. In particular, they provide breeding habitat for a range of threatened bird species, some of which depend largely or entirely on braided rivers for their survival. Braided rivers commonly have large areas of bare, mobile shingle, multiple channels, and variable flows. However their ecological values are increasingly threatened; most have been invaded by weeds and introduced mammalian predators, and are further degraded by a wide variety of human activities.
The Ashley-Rakahuri is a medium-sized river located in North Canterbury. From the Ashley Gorge, the river flows east and enters the sea about 25 km north of Christchurch. In contrast to the larger snow-fed rivers, the Ashley-Rakahuri is fed by rainfall from the foothills and has relatively low flow rates.
The bird values of the Ashley-Rakahuri are well-recognised. Following surveys of Canterbury rivers in the 1970s, the New Zealand Wildlife Service ranked their wildlife and conservation values; the Ashley-Rakahuri was one of five rivers given the highest possible ranking of ‘Outstanding’. More recently, the Ashley River and estuary were also included in a list of wetland sites of international importance in New Zealand.
In the past, the river has provided breeding habitat for significant numbers of black-fronted terns (Sterna albostriata) and thousands of pairs of black-billed gulls (Larus bulleri). Recently the number of gulls in particular has declined substantially. The Ashley is one of the most northerly on which wrybills (Anarhynchus frontalis) breed, following a southward contraction of the core range of the species over the past century. These three key species have been the main focus of management activities of the Group; all are endemic, have declining populations and are considered threatened.
The main activities undertaken by the Group in 2011 were:
Nick Ledgard Joan Miles
191 Carrs Road 905 Mt Thomas Road
Loburn RD 2 Rangiora RD 1