Rare butterflies flutter by at sea’s edge

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Wakanui Beach is one of the few places to find a rare butterfly, Rauparaha’s copper.

Scientist Brian Patrick found it during a recent survey – and brought an example to show Ashburton councillors.

It employed his firm, Wildlands, to do survey work.

He said the butterfly was only found on the Canterbury plains – at Kakahu Bush, the Hinds River mouth, Te Moana Gorge, on roadsides near Leeston, Orari Gorge, and Wakanui .

He said it was gorgeous.

The insect survey will guide council in management of the area, including proposed restoration and enhancement works.

The report said Wakanui Beach was an important coastal habitat for a range of indigenous flora and fauna, including insects.

The rare butterfly, Rauparaha’s Copper, “had a significant population there on pohuehue where it is joined by eight other pohuehue specialist species.

There was also a population of the Canterbury boulder copper there, too.

“The report recommends investigating the periodic watering of Wakanui Creek to improve the ecology of wetlands, and more surveys of seasonal insects at the beach.

The report said the rare butterfly was found in the pohuehue areas behind the gravel beach at Wakanui and found on Muelenbeckia australis and Muelenbeckia complexa.

Much of it is scrambling over exotic vegetation and the species was formerly distributed from Kaiapoi to Geraldine.

Cr Stuart Wilson said that at a recent ECan meeting muelenbeckia was described as a pest to river protection works, and Mr Patrick said it could flourish in inappropriate places.

At Wakanui it was climbing pine trees, and care would have to be taken if the pines were removed not to kill the muelenbeckia as the inset life depended on it.

He suggested removing the ice plant from the foreshore, and that woody weeds and gorse also be removed.

Mr Patrick said the New Zealand otter, kept by Maori as a pet, was last known in Ashburton.

Some people doubted its existence because no bones had been found but there were too many reports of it for it not to have existed.

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