Kaitorete Spit

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Aerial view Lake Ellesmere / Te Waihora and Kaitorete Spit

Kaitorete Spit is a long finger of land which extends along the coast of Canterbury in the South Island of New Zealand. It runs west from Banks Peninsula for 25 kilometres, and separates the shallow Lake Ellesmere / Te Waihora from the Pacific Ocean. It is actually a barrier as it reaches landfall on either side (at Banks Peninsula/Birdlings Flat and Taumutu), though at its western end it tapers to a point less than 100 metres in width which is occasionally breached at high tide. The spit is noted for its isolation and for its pebbly beaches.

The barrier is low-lying but is not prone to flooding. A gravel road extends along half of its length from the small settlement of Birdling's Flat at its easternmost point. At this point, the northern shore of the spit is washed by a tidal lagoon, Kaituna Lagoon, which is essentially a short broad arm of Lake Ellesmere. It is also at its point that the spit is at its widest – some 3.5 kilometres. SH 75 skirts the hills of Banks Peninsula close to the spit's eastern end.[1]

The barrier is of considerable ecological significance and is home to the majority of the surviving specimens of shrubby tororaro (Muehlenbeckia astonii) – a nationally endangered endemic plant. The Kaitorete Spit dune habitat also contains a distinctive moth fauna with naturally rare species.[2] Several species of moth are endemic to Kaitorete Spit including Kiwaia jeanae, Scythris niphozela and Kupea electilis.[2]

In July 2015, aerospace company Rocket Lab announced that it would use Kaitorete Spit as their New Zealand satellite launch site. When the resource consent allowed them only twelve rocket launches per year the company went to Mahia Peninsula in the North Island instead.[3] Kaitorete Spit had previously, in the 1960s, been used by NASA for rocket launches.[4]


  1. ^ Reed New Zealand atlas (2004) Auckland: Reed Publishing. Map 85. ISBN 0 7900 0952 8
  2. ^ a b Patrick, B (1994). "Lepidoptera of Kaitorete Spit, Canterbury". New Zealand Entomologist. 17 (1): 52–63. CiteSeerX doi:10.1080/00779962.1994.9721985.
  3. ^ van Beynen, Martin (20 November 2015). "Canty's Birdlings Flat on the back burner for Rocket Lab launch". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  4. ^ "Rocket Lab to Launch from Kaitorete Spit". NZEdge.com. Retrieved 4 January 2019.

Coordinates: 43°49′40″S 172°33′17″E / 43.8278°S 172.5548°E / -43.8278; 172.5548

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