Wakanui Beach could be a legacy project

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Wakanui Beach supporters (from left) Val Clemens, John Wilkie and Ross Digby with a map of the coastal reserve.

Wakanui Beach needs a windmill to generate power to pump water into its lagoon, making the whole area more attractive to birds and people, says a group enhancing the beach.

Water in the lagoon, or hapua, was key to life for flora and fauna there, said spokesperson Val Clemens.

The lagoon, where Wakanui Stream historically exits into the sea, is mostly dry. But birdlife, including the endangered banded dotterel, are more likely to nest there if there is water.

Mrs Clemens and Selwyn Price, on behalf of the Wakanui Crew doing the enhancing, updated the Ashburton Water Zone Committee recently.

Wakanui Beach was important to Maori in the early days and was part of a network of settlements along the coastline. A reserve was created there in 1907 and a brick shelter built; the building is now a private bach.

Mrs Clemens said the beach was popular to this day and on her last visit she counted 20 cars and three campervans there.

“It is a place of great potential but you need to be a dreamer to see that.”

Her vision, already under way with the help of the Wakanui Crew, Wakanui School students, farmers in the area and others, is to enhance the space with native plantings and try to stop people dumping their rubbish there.

It was also common to see areas where rubbish had been burned, she said.

Equally concerning were the number of vehicles being driven through newly-planted wetlands areas.

“One of the significant things you see is vehicle tracks and bird footprints colliding.”

Community involvement and education was the answer, Mrs Clemens said.

As well as rare plants, the beach reserve is home to native birds, some endangered. The banded dotterel, with a declining population of 50,000, nests were hard to distinguish and eggs at the mercy of predators as well as unseeing humans.

The beach area was assessed in 2017 and replanting events happened in 2018, 2019 and this year.

Mrs Clemens told the zone committee the beach could be a legacy project that aligned with its aims; the committee could help find a way to ensure water remained in the lagoon to support bird and plant life.

She asked if they could investigate the possibility of a windmill to pump water there.

Their actions could ensure children 100 years from now might still be able to see a kingfisher, a banded dotterel or a copper butterfly, she said.

Wakanui Stream has been highly modified over the years and all but disappeared. Restoring some flow is seen as a much bigger story than what is happening at the mouth.

The zone committee has asked Environment Canterbury to provide a report on the hydrology of the area.