New project shines spotlight on Canterbury’s wetlands

Thirty demonstration wetlands in Canterbury are to receive government support as part of the latest round of funding from the Sustainable Farming Fund, announced by MPI today. In the shadow of World Wetlands Day (2 February 2019), the new project will have a particular focus on helping farmers to learn more about how to manage and create wetlands on their farms and turn them into assets.

The joint project has received co-funding and in-kind support from Environment Canterbury, NZ Landcare Trust, Merino NZ, DairyNZ and Overseer Ltd. Among other things, the project aims to identify how farm wetlands can be managed to recognise all their values – economic, environmental, recreational and cultural – in a way that works for farmers and is practical. The project will also address the knowledge gaps that currently exist, and work to fit in with the economic reality of farming.

Janet Gregory, Canterbury Regional Coordinator for NZ Landcare Trust, is managing the project. She says: “While most farmers want to farm sustainably, many remain concerned about the implications of having areas identified as wetlands and are uncertain about how to best manage them. This includes addressing matters that go beyond regulatory compliance, such as weed control when stock is excluded or what species to plant in different areas. This project will showcase how farmers can lead and undertake such projects, with support from others when required.”

Cultural values

Shaun Burkett (Regional Leader – Biodiversity) and Mananui Ramsden (Cultural Land Management Advisor – Kaitohutohu Tikanga Whenua) represent Environment Canterbury on the project team. A key component of the project is to incorporate mātauranga Māori alongside farming and scientific knowledge.

Wetlands are considered taonga for Ngāi Tahu and with the protection of mahinga kai now included in Farm Environment Plans for some Canterbury districts, it is a good opportunity to share this knowledge and develop management options that include this. Ramsden adds: “Mātauranga Māori Monitoring is a highly effective way of measuring outcomes and will be essential for future reference.”

Wetland protection

There has been huge wetland loss over many years with more than 90 per cent of wetlands lost throughout the country through drainage, land development and land use change. In Canterbury natural wetlands on the plains are now very rare; most of the remaining wetlands are coastal or in the foothills, high country or margins of rivers. 

Jason Butt, Environment Canterbury’s Principal Biodiversity Advisor – Wetlands, comments: “This project aims to help land managers to appreciate and understand the value wetlands add, not only to their productive systems but to all sectors of society, and this is key to halting the loss of natural wetlands. This in turn will help preserve the biodiversity values, cultural values and ecosystem services that wetlands provide for future generations.”

For more about World Wetlands Day in New Zealand, visit the Wetland Trust website.