Land added to conservation area

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More than 341 hectares has been added to the eastern slopes at Flat Top Hill conservation area, offering greater protection for native species.

The land was classified under the Obelisk tenure review process, and takes the area from 813ha to 1150ha.

The new zone is an extension of the existing dry shrubland conservation area already at Flat Top Hill, which is managed by the Department of Conservation.

Senior community ranger Trudy Anderson said the new zoning would help protect native species such as moths, lizards and birds that relied on the vegetation.

“Doc is committed to protecting biodiversity in Central Otago and one way we do that is by protecting land like this.”

The newly-classified conservation land was part of a rare ecosystem unique to Central Otago, she said.

“The whole Alexandra basin used to be shrubland.

“It represents what Central Otago used to be.”

The area was home to several threatened species, and Doc programmes to control possums, rabbits and broom had been ongoing since 1992, she said.

The department also manages the recreational use of the area.

Mrs Anderson said visitor numbers to the site were increasing.

In July, Doc launched its Kiwi Guardians programme in a bid to encourage more children to the area, and the Mountain Bikers of Alexandra is working with the department to build more trails.

The newly classified zone was likely to be popular with locals, Mrs Anderson said.

“I’m sure it’s going to be popular for its recreational value, as well.

“To have a pocket like this so close to town and publicly accessible is really great.”

She also praised the work carried out by community groups around the region, with many people co-operating in native planting days and other conservation efforts.

“It’s fantastic we’ve got lots of people in community groups who are willing to give up their time.”

At the same time, a further 890ha was added to the Kopuwai conservation area near near Symes Rd.