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New Ashley River /rakahuri Regional Park Proposed

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Approval and funding is being sought to better manage North Canterbury's Ashley River/ Rakahuri, with a view to creating a third regional park within Environment Canterbury's borders.

A popular recreational location, key breeding area for braided, endangered river bird species, a significant trout and salmon fishery, and taonga of the local Te Ngai Tuahuriri Runanga, the proposed park would follow ECan's successful Waimakariri River Regional Park and the Tekapo Regional Park.

The majority of the Ashley River/Rakahuri bed and adjacent berm from the Okuku confluence to the Coastal Marine Reserve is vested in Environment Canterbury (ECan), which wants to see the land managed in a responsible manner.

The new park would cover 18 kilometres of the river and about 1700 hectares of adjoining land. The area stretches from the confluence of the Okuku River, downstream to just above the Waikuku estuary.

"A community advisory group and ECan staff have collaborated on the draft Ashley/Rakahuri management strategy, which recommends that the Ashley/Rakahuri Regional Park should be established in order to manage the river, enhance visitor enjoyment and protect natural values," said ECan chair Sir Kerry Burke.

"What came across strongly in the consultation process was the huge sense of ownership by the local community and the demand that the river and its surrounds be managed better."

Environment Canterbury councillors recently accepted the draft strategy and called for wider public submission and consultation. The council has asked that a project proposal to establish a regional park, with funding policy, be produced for inclusion in the 2009 LongTerm Council Community Plan process.

Cr Jo Kane, ECan North Canterbury councillor, said improved management of the Ashley/Rakahuri was in everyone's interests. "Since the development of the Waimakariri River Regional Park, we have observed changes in attitudes and behaviours. More people are using the park for a whole host of different activities and less desirable things such as litter, noise, vandalism and dumping of cars, are reducing," she said.

"As people's respect and enjoyment grow for the diversity of these river systems, we need to be aware of the ecological and recreational balances necessary to protect and enhance the areas from competing demands."

Cr Ross Little, who also represents North Canterbury for ECan, said the matter involved the council managing its own land in a responsible manner. "This is the key issue in my opinion, that it's our land we're talking about, and we are endeavouring to manage it in the best way possible for the future. Balancing conservation and use is challenging, requiring consideration of a wide range of views and values."

The Ashley River/Rakahuri has been an important regional recreational resource for Christchurch and North Canterbury for decades, and more recently growing recreation needs have placed considerable pressure and competing demands on the area.

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