Waiau wetland provides a learning opportunity

Waiau farmers Shaun, Lynn, Ben and Rachel Lissington are working hard to ensure the best outcome is achieved for a wetland on their property.

The family own and manage Ardan View Farm in the North Canterbury town and recently hosted an open day on-site to show neighbours, fellow farmers and industry experts the wetland they're enhancing.

Trust helping farmers transform their wetlands

Watch our video on the Waiau field day trip

Video on the Waiau field day

The NZ Landcare Trust hosted the event, which was held at the end of April. The trust is working with the family to look after the wetland, as part of a wider project. It's one of 14 sites between Kaikōura and Otematata the trust is helping farmers enhance.

We are also proudly supporting the three-year project with Governance support, technical advice, and co-funding the work alongside the Lissingtons and the trust. The project aims to work with farmers and the wider community to provide advice and share knowledge about the range of benefits both natural and constructed wetlands offer the farming system, environment, and community.

How the wetland came to be

The Lissingtons purchased the 168-hectare property eight years ago, converting it to a dairy farm. A couple of years later the Kaikōura earthquake hit, causing severe damage to many properties and buildings across North Canterbury.

Shaun said the property didn't have a wetland prior to the quake.

"We were lucky not to suffer much structural damage but the land itself has been affected, including the creation of what is now this wetland," he said.

Shaun said the family are aware of the need to protect the biodiversity in the wetland.

"We want to do it once and do it right, that's why we're working with the trust on this," he said.

Open day

The Ardan View Farm open day included presentations and demonstrations from the family as well as the trust, our staff, Pattle Delamore Partners, Farming with Native Biodiversity, and Lowe Environmental Impact.

Participants also toured the wetland and were tasked with coming up with creative solutions on how to best preserve the wetland in the future. Groups came up with varying suggestions including ways of increasing the wetland's water level, planting native and exotic shrubs, and removing the nearby willows.

Farmers proudly taking the reigns

The field day at the wetland

Attendees chatting at the field day

Trust project coordinator Tony Watson said the idea of the field day was to get farmers to think more about individual wetlands and what can be done with them.

"It again just proved farmers really do care about the environment they live in," he said.

Tony said there are varying levels of work required at the 14 demonstration sites the trust is managing.

"Some wetlands just need a little bit of enhancement through fencing off, reducing any grazing pressure and letting the native plants get away and do their own thing. Others need some planting and weed control," he said.

"The idea is to help each wetland function properly as a wetland so it can reduce nutrient levels in the water, improve water quality, and enhance the wetland's biodiversity," he added.

Future looking bright for the wetland

These suggestions aligned with Pattle Delamore Partners hydrologist Ben Throssell's proposals for the wetland, which he said he is still gathering feedback on and fine-tuning.

Ben said they are looking at ways they can increase the movement of water through the wetland, and potentially encouraging drainage water to enter the wetland rather than bypassing it which could provide an opportunity to improve water quality outcomes. It may be possible to raise the level of the water by around 100 to 200mm which could help biodiversity values in the wetland flourish. He is also proposing a fencing plan based on the predicted wetland area and placing haybales in the wetland area to divert flows and increase the amount of time water takes to move through the wetland.

Ben said there is a fine balance they are wanting to strike.

"We're trying to marry together doing the right thing for the wetland, without it having any negative effects on the farm. This is tricky when it comes to raising the water levels because we don't want to overdo it and make it too wet underfoot in the paddocks next to it," he said.

Others encouraged to attend field days

Principal biodiversity advisor Jason Butt took part in the field day and said he really enjoyed the experience.

"Everyone was so open to learning and willing to ask questions, it was super beneficial across the board," he said.

Jason hopes it encourages others to take part in future field days and engage with us and the trust.

Helpful links

For more information, check out the following links: