Posted By QEII National Trust | April 8, 2019

Back in March, copping farmers Graeme and Gill Harris hosted 129 students, teachers and parent-helpers from Hinds School to explore their coastal harakeke wetland covenant.

Three generations are right behind the District’s students learning about their natural world. Cropping farmer Graeme Harris catches up with Stuart Wilson, Ashburton District Councillor and Sam Anderson, Operations Manager for MHV Water

The wetland nestles at the end of the Canterbury plains, where artesian water bubbles up and runs to the ocean. This 1-hectare site is the best coastal wetland along the Canterbury coast. It has held onto the full complement of wetland plants and bugs, many of which are now gone from the footprint of the former Great Hinds swamp, which was first drained in the 1880’s.

The students were delighted to see five species of pūrerehua butterflies and moths, kēkēwai blue damselflies, and spiders. The students were also treated to a show by a hectors dolphin when it swam through the surf break just as the first group of students were arriving at the beach. Extraordinarily, the dolphin returned and then it happened again for the second group to see too.

Undescribed Canterbury copper butterfly (with the blue spots of a female)

Edith Smith from Ashburton Forest and Bird was the bird expert on the day, naming the sea birds flying up the coast, including an endangered black-fronted turn. At the end of the day Vicki McIntyre, the principal of Hinds School, was fizzing with ideas for student science projects based around the Harris wetland.

The day was the inaugural event for the Mid Canterbury Kānukā Regeneration Trust. The Trust plans to link schools with the original natural areas so the next generation will care for Ashburton’s native plants and animals, just as the extended Harris family have done for 3 generations.