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Te Puke landowner turns hay paddock back in time

Thursday, 14 November 2013 12:00 p.m.

A Te Puke landowner has turned a hay paddock back into the wetland it used to be decades ago, with the help of Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

The new wetland re-creates some of the former habitat that would have existed along the floodplain of the Waiari Stream last century, as part of the Regional Council’s commitment to implementing the Kaituna River Re-Diversion and Wetland Creation project.

Regional Council Land Management Officer Ryan Standen said the paddock used to be kept dry by draining springs directly into the Waiari Stream. Constructing the wetland was relatively easy, blocking drains to re-flood the area, building a structure to control the water level and an emergency spillway in case of flooding. 

“There’s a native fish passage from the Waiari stream into the wetland through a culvert which has old mussel farm rope in it for native fish to climb up,” he said. “The edge of the wetland will be planted over the next few winters, and pest animals like stoats and rats which prey on wetland birds will be trapped.”

The Regional Council’s Natural Resource Operations Group is offering help for landowners who want to create new wetlands within the Kaituna River catchment.

“Assisting landowners to create wetlands in the Kaituna River Catchment is part of the Regional Council’s role in implementing the Kaituna River and Ongatoro/Maketu Estuary Strategy. We want to create 100 hectares of new wetlands in the area.  

“We’d like to see more wetlands to improve water quality, provide habitat for native species, cultural use and recreational opportunities,” he said.

Mr Standen said wetlands were among the world’s most productive environments, home to a wide variety of plants and animals which had specially adapted to living in wet places. An international report earlier this year urged a major shift in attitudes to wetlands, “to recognise their value in delivering water, raw materials and food essential for life and crucial for maintaining people's livelihoods and the sustainability of the world's economies".

Wetlands also absorbed water during heavy rain, releasing water gradually to reduce flooding. Downstream water flows and ground water levels could also be maintained in dry weather, and plants acted as a filter to remove nutrients and improve water quality.  

“Wetlands support the greatest concentrations of bird life of any habitat in New Zealand and far more species than a forest. Migratory species of birds and fish also depend on chains of suitable wetlands,” Mr Standen said.

“Over the last century we’ve lost significant wetlands around Te Puke, particularly in the Kaituna River catchment, and we only have less than two percent of the freshwater wetland that existed in 1840 now. The community is concerned about the loss of wetlands and the vital function they have in a healthy eco-system.”

Landowner Murray Fenwick said creating the wetland on his property was an exciting development.

“It’s great to be able to return some of this land to the wetland it used to be, and then watch the bird life and plants return as well,” he said.

The Regional Council can help create new wetlands with funding from Biodiversity or Sustainable Land Management Programmes. A Wetland Restoration Guide is on the Regional Council website www.boprc.govt.nz or contact land management officer Ryan Standen 0800 884 881 ext 8503

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Kaituna maketu wetland small