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Sandspit lagoon near Westport now fully-protected

Sandspit and lagoon near Westport now fully-protected

The Government has bought a $90,000 section of sandspit near Westport to help protect an important coastal and estuarine environment for seabirds, and for Maori heritage.

Close to 24 ha of coastal and estuarine dunelands at Okari Spit, Nine Mile Beach, were purchased from Westport farmers George and Jennifer Brownlee by the Government’s Nature Heritage Fund, fund chairperson Di Lucas said today.

“With this purchase, Okari Spit is now fully protected, bringing the area of Department of Conservation reserve land in the area to more than 100 ha.”

Mr Brownlee said he preferred to have this land protected for all New Zealanders to enjoy rather than sell it to a developer.

The 400 ha Okari Lagoon next to the sandspit is one of the largest tidal flat estuaries on the West Coast. The area is recognised in the Ngai Tahu Deed of Settlement as a Statutory Acknowledgement Area.

Nationally, the estuary is significant for its dune landscape values and bird life. It is an important feeding ground for South Island pied oystercatchers, with more than 5000 birds having been recorded at the estuary at one time.

Fund manager Allan McKenzie said that the purchase recognised the importance of highly-mobile and fragile dunelands, and of setting aside coastal areas as reserves.

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