Trust plans reserve for Akaroa hills

A proposed 190-hectare reserve in the hills above Akaroa would open up new tracts of land to the public and lead to improvements to the township's water supply, proponents say.

The Native Forests Restoration Trust (NFRT) is behind the proposed reserve at the top of the Grehan Valley. It would cover the entire upper catchment of Akaroa's main water supply and stretch over the ridgeline to the Otanerito Valley.

NFRT says it has been offered the land by its current owner, who wants to see it protected for the public good.

It is willing to contribute 40 per cent of the purchase cost and has managed to persuade the Rod Donald Banks Peninsula Trust to contribute a further 20 per cent. It has asked the Christchurch City Council to provide the final 40 per cent.

The council has agreed to consider making that commitment as part of its next Long Term Plan.

Since its founding in 1980, the NFRT has acquired land to promote the regeneration of forests, protect important species and restore their habitats, and to improve the quality of waterways.

NFRT owns 28 reserves throughout the North Island and the northern South Island and is the largest non- governmental conservation landholder in New Zealand. It typically acquires land to promote forest regeneration, protect important species, and to improve the quality of waterways.

In a recent submission to the council, NFRT manager Sandy Crichton said the land above Akaroa was particularly attractive to the trust because it bordered the Hinewai Reserve. If it secured the land it planned to remove all stock, retire it from farming and actively encourage it to regenerate into a native forest reserve.

"It would be protected by a QEII covenant with public access, significantly protecting the town's water supply and creating a recreational asset," Crichton said.

Once stock was removed from the property it was expected the forest would quickly regenerate, with ngaio, narrow-leaved lacebark, ribbonwood and five-finger establishing quickly. Public access would be provided through a network of walking tracks.

Akaroa-Wairewa Community Board chairwoman Pam Richardson said the board fully backed the proposal for the reserve because of the benefits it would bring to Akaroa's water supply. "It protects the community water supply and also provides an opportunity for the restoration of an ecologically significant area," he said.

The Press