Wetlands mapping - what's the story?

Update: 28 May 2021

We have temporarily removed our wetlands map layer from Canterbury Maps. This is to ensure we present information in a way that is consistent with the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020, which describes how regional councils should undertake mapping of wetlands.

The temporary removal of this map has no bearing on our rules and Good Management Practices (GMPs) regarding wetlands – which must still be followed.

If you need information about wetlands on your property, please contact Customer Services on 0800 324 636 or ecinfo@ecan.govt.nz.

Update: 20 September 2019

In May 2019 we released an updated map layer showing where wetlands may exist in Canterbury. For some, this has caused discussion – and, in some cases, concern – about what this new information means for landowners.

We know that wetlands are important to everyone in the region, and this updated layer is part of a process that reflects the need for meaningful partnerships between Environment Canterbury and landowners with identified wetlands on their property.

We aim to continue to improve wetland protection, maintenance and enhancement in the region, and the best way to do that is to work in partnership with landowners to protect natural values on their land.

This page aims to provide clear information on:

If your question or concern is not answered by the FAQs below, or you just want more detail, please get in touch via 0800 324 636 or ecinfo@ecan.govt.nz

Frequently asked questions

Where has this wetlands information come from? 

Wetlands information has always been available on Canterbury Maps; this is simply an update of that information. This does not change your – or our – responsibilities related to wetlands.

How are wetlands identified on the map? 

We use a combination of aerial imagery and on-the-ground observations to identify where wetlands exist, so this is the best information we have about actual and potential wetlands.

Our updated wetlands layer is useful in helping to determine the presence of a wetland, but a detailed ground-survey is the best way to confirm the location/extent/presence/values of a wetland.

You will see on the map that we have distinguished between ‘ground survey’ and ‘aerial survey’ wetlands:

  • “Ground survey” wetlands have been field inspected and mapped/described in some detail. An assessment of ecological significance against Canterbury Regional Policy Statement criteria is also provided for most ground surveyed wetlands. Most of the mapped wetlands are in the ‘aerial survey’ category.
  • “Aerial survey” wetlands have been mapped by delineating the outline of known and likely/potential wetland habitats from the latest high-resolution aerial imagery available at the time of mapping. Characteristic vegetation types, colours, patterns, presence of visible water were used to identify wetlands on aerial photos; with hydrological and topographical information also considered.
What is the review process if the map showing a wetland on my property is wrong? 

If you feel that we have made an error and your property does not have a wetland, we are very happy to look into that for you. 

Part of our review may involve a ground-survey visit by one of our ecologists and we will work with you to get this organised at our cost.

Equally, if you require clarification due to a consent process, we are also happy to visit. We want to work with you – we see this as the beginning of a conversation.

You can choose to employ your own ecologist to do this work for you, but this will be at your own cost.

Call us on 0800 324 636 or email us at ecinfo@ecan.govt.nz. Explain the nature of your enquiry and your contact details will be passed on to the correct team. We will contact you within two days to discuss your concerns.

Download the mapping process (PDF File, 443.96KB)

Wetland mapping review process

Will the process of ground-surveying cost me anything?

No. We will come to your property at no cost to you so that we can check our information and discuss the next steps. If there is no wetland identified, it will be removed from the map.

Does this mean ECan can go on my land? 

If you want us to ground-survey the wetland on your property, we will need to come onto your land. This will be at your invitation - and again, at no cost to you. However, you can employ your own ecologist to do the ground survey, but it will be at your own cost.

It should be noted that a warranted Environment Canterbury officer can come onto a property for compliance monitoring and enforcement purposes and/or for State of Environment monitoring purposes. While these options are available, they are a last resort and we are committed to working with farmers to map wetlands in Canterbury.

What happens if it is established that I DO have a wetland? Does this mean I can’t do anything on my farm? 
Not necessarily, but there are restrictions for undertaking certain activities in and around wetlands, and you may need to obtain a resource consent to continue the works. There have been rules in Canterbury for many years that protect wetlands from being ruined and more recently the government has introduced the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020, which have further rules to protect wetlands and their associated values.

First, you need to determine whether the rules apply to the wetland on your property. The rules apply to many different types of wetlands including bogs, marshes and mountain wetlands, but generally do not apply to artificially created wetlands or wet pasture where water temporarily pools after rainfall. If you are unsure, please contact our Customer Services team for more information.

In general, the activities that will have restrictions are:
  • vegetation clearance, earthworks and land disturbance in and around a wetland, including burning in the Hill and High Country,
  • reducing or draining a wetland,
  • installing a structure within or around a wetland,
  • the taking, using, damming, diverting or discharging water in and around a wetland,
  • stock having access to wetlands, or other farming activities happening within or around a wetland, and
  • discharging contaminants such as effluent, sediment or agrichemicals in or around a wetland.

In some cases, such as when the purpose is for restoring or enhancing a wetland, the activities can happen as a permitted activity without a resource consent if certain conditions can be met. However in most situations a resource consent is likely required before any work takes place.

It is important to remember that a wetland is not an immediate ‘stop signal’ – it’s the gateway to a planning process that will need to be worked through.

In Canterbury there are also nutrient management rules that apply to most farms. These rules have a requirement for farmers to be implementing Good Management Practices (GMP) on their farms and in some cases having a farming land use consent and Farm Environment Plan (FEP) that will be independently audited. It is important that farmers identify wetlands as well as particularly wet areas on their farms, include them in their FEPs and ensure GMPs are being undertaken to minimise the effects from the farming activity on the wetland, even if its not happening directly within it.

Access the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan here to see the Canterbury specific rules for wetlands.

Check out the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020 here for the new national rules around wetlands, or have a look at the summarised factsheet here.

Download the consent process map (PDF File, 1.29MB)

Wetland consent process diagram

What happens if it is established that I DO have a wetland and I have an FEP?

If the wetland has been confirmed as meeting the criteria in the LWRP, and your farm has or needs an FEP, the next steps depend on the situation:

  1. If you do not intend to do any works that might impact the wetland, information on the wetland still needs to be included in the FEP. This should cover how the impact of the farming activity on the wetland will be managed in line with good management practices. Worth noting – if at your first FEP audit you have not adequately identified a wetland on your property, this may lead to you receivig a lower grade.
  2. If you are considering works that might impact on a wetland, then a consent may be needed. What conditions are put on that consent will vary depending on the type and significance of the wetland, and the activity you want to undertake. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you can't do that activity – however, there may be restrictions around some aspects of it.

If you would like advice on how to protect and enhance your wetland, we can help with that and may even be able to contribute towards the cost of some of that work.

In all situations, if you have any questions or concerns, contact us – we are here to answer your questions and to help you to navigate the process.

More detail on FEPs.

Where can I find advice and information about funding assistance?

The following are potential sources of funding:

  • QEⅡ National Trust is a useful source of information on protecting wetlands on private land.
  • District councils and Department of Conservation (DOC) – both can register covenants, and some district councils have grants available. Contact your local council for information.
  • Ngā Whenua Rāhui – This funding programme exists to protect the natural integrity of Māori land and preserve mātauranga Māori.
  • Wetland Action Fund, CBS fund and fish habitat – These sources of funding can be discussed with one of our biodiversity advisory officers.
What happens if it is established that I do NOT have a wetland?

If no wetland is identified on your property and it has been incorrectly mapped, it will be removed from the map.

I have a wetland that has not been picked up by the mapping; what does that mean?

Because we use a combination of aerial imagery and on-the-ground observations to identify where wetlands exist, the updated map is the best information we have about actual and potential wetlands.

The data may need to be further refined by a ground-survey. Again, if you would like to discuss the presence – or absence – of a wetland on your land, call us to discuss and to arrange a site visit.

Why are wetlands important?

Canterbury’s wetlands are rich in biodiversity values and provide habitats for many species of plants and animals. They also play an important role in nutrient and sediment filtering, water quality, and flood control, so it is essential that we protect them. Among other things, they: 

  • work like kidneys by filtering out sediment and nutrients, improving water quality;
  • can help to mitigate floods;
  • support many species of plants and animals that are found nowhere else;
  • can provide or improve amenity values, such as game bird hunting opportunities or landscape value;
  • can add value to properties, and are assets to landowners; and
  • are of great cultural and spiritual significance to Maori, providing food (eg, wildfowl, tuna (eels) and other freshwater fish) and offering places to grow taro and harvest harakeke (flax) and other materials for medicine, food, building and crafts.

Since European settlement in Canterbury, we have lost over 90% of the region’s previously extensive freshwater natural wetlands and about half of our coastal wetlands. Reasons for this loss are a combination of physical and ecological modifications that have been made to meet human needs for urban and rural land use and recreation.

Mapping these wetlands helps us to paint a picture of where our remaining wetlands are so that we can all work towards protecting them.

Landowners have a stewardship role related to the environment, and even without the map, that responsibility doesn’t change.

We also know that many farmers already use best practice to manage the values of wetlands on their farm as part of their Farm Environment Plan  and within their overall farm planning and management.

How do we define wetlands?

‘Wetland’ is the collective term for the wet margins of streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, estuaries, bogs and swamps. The definition also encompasses lagoons. It’s important to note that some wetlands are not always wet!

The RMA defines a wetland as “permanently or intermittently wet areas, shallow water, and land water margins that support a natural ecosystem of plants and animals that are adapted to wet conditions”.

The National Environmental Standards for Freshwater (NES-F) define a ‘natural wetland’ as:

"a wetland (as defined in the Act) that is not:

a) a wetland constructed by artificial means (unless it was constructed to offset impacts on, or restore, an existing or former natural wetland); or
b) a geothermal wetland; or
c) any area of improved pasture that, at the commencement date, is dominated by (that is more than 50% of) exotic pasture species and is subject to temporary rain-derived water pooling."

The Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) provides a definition of wetland for the purpose of our rules:

  1. wetlands which are part of river, stream and lake beds;
  2. natural ponds, swamps, marshes, fens, bogs, seeps, brackish areas, mountain wetlands, and other naturally wet areas that support an indigenous ecosystem of plants and animals specifically adapted to living in wet conditions, and provide a habitat for wildlife;
  3. coastal wetlands above mean high water springs; but excludes: a. wet pasture or where water temporarily ponds after rainfall; b. artificial wetlands used for wastewater or stormwater treatment except where they are listed in Sections 6 to 15 of this Plan; c. artificial farm dams, drainage canals and detention dams; and d. reservoirs for firefighting, domestic or community water supply.

This does not mean that areas which meet the RMA definition but not the LWRP or NES-F definitions are not wetlands. It simply means that we do not actively manage them under the rules in the LWRP of the NES-F.

For example, areas that meet the wet pasture exclusion are still technically wetlands however, for the purposes of the LWRP, they are excluded from some of our rules.

How can I get help or more information? 

If you are concerned about any aspect of this wetland information, including the way it might relate to your property, please get in touch to start the conversation; we want to work with landowners to ensure our information is correct and to figure out your next steps.

Call us on 0800 324 636 or email us at ecinfo@ecan.govt.nz. Explain the nature of your enquiry and your contact details will be passed on to the correct team.

If possible, please have your property details (address, legal description if available) and the wetland ID number (this is on the map when you click on the wetland). We will then contact you within two days to discuss your concerns.

Find out more

Please note that as per the update at the top of this page from 28 May 2021, we have temporarily removed our wetlands map layer from Canterbury Maps. Some of the resources below refer to this map layer – please ignore these references for now.

Related links about the layer:

Canterbury wetland news stories: 

Other useful wetlands resources: