Wetland Treasures

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Ō Tū Wharekai contains a range of threatened wildlife.


Ō Tū Wharekai has been shaped by glaciers and provides a variety of habitats. Because the landscape is so varied it is able to support a large amount of wildlife.

There are over 30 bird species that regularly use the lakes and wetlands. Ō Tū Wharekai contains the upper Rangitata River, which includes one of the most important breeding sites for the threatened wrybill/ngutu pare.

Other birds such as the Austalian bittern/mātuku, and the Australian crested grebe/kāmana can be found at Ō Tū Wharekai.

As well as birds and fish, Ō Tū Wharekai is also home to minute animals called zooplankton, that live in the water.

Plant life

Ō Tū Wharekai is also an important site for kettle holes which support rare ephemeral turf vegetation. The swamps of Ō Tū Wharekai include a threatened sedge.

Plants aren’t just restricted to above water, Ō Tū Wharekai has a huge diversity of macrophytes or aquatic plants, including freshwater algae.

There are many threatened animals and plants living in Ō Tū Wharekai.

Threatened native fish

  • longfin eel/tuna
  • upland longjaw galaxias (small, freshwater fish).
  • Threatened bird species
  • Australasian bittern/Mātuku
  • black-fronted tern/Tarāpirohe
  • black-billed gull/Tarāpuka
  • wrybill/Ngutu pare
  • banded dotterel/Turiwhatu
  • Australasian crested grebe/Kāmana
  • Caspian tern/Tārā nui.

Threatened lizard species

  • scree skink/mokomoko
  • long-toed skink.

Threatened plant species

  • marsh arrowrush
  • pygmy forget-me-not
  • pygmy clubrush
  • native lily
  • water brome
  • rare grasses.

These wetlands also contain some of the best examples of red tussock and pūkio wetlands in Canterbury.


Audio Maori keywords: 

A good reason to treasure: Saving endangered plants and animals from becoming extinct and protecting their wild places is important for our health and our future.

Value to Māori

Wetland Interconnectedness


Ō Tū Wharekai is home to threatened native fish. What animal is pictured here? Image: LEARNZ.

This is an Australasian crested grebe/Kāmana. What other threatened bird species might you see at Ō Tū Wharekai? Image: LEARNZ.

A small scree skink, one of two threatened lizards that can be found at Ō Tū Wharekai. What is the other one called? Image: LEARNZ.

Special plants can be found in these wetlands. This is a pygmy forget-me-not from an ephemeral tarn. Why do you think it grows so small? Image: LEARNZ.