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Spotlight goes on our wetlands

Spotlight goes on our wetlands

February 2 is World Wetland’s Day and Greater Wellington has been working hard to ensure that the tiny fraction of wetlands that remain in the region are well looked after.

Greater Wellington’s biodiversity policy advisor Tim Park says wetlands are highly productive environments that can support a diverse range of plants and animals (birds, fish and insects). Wetlands provide water storage, help mitigate floods and erosion, remove nutrients from rivers and maintain the water table. Wetland areas are highly valued by Maori providing food (fish and birds), flax and medicinal plants.

Aside from Lake Wairarapa, only 3.5% of the natural wetlands in the region remain. Most of the region’s and New Zealand's wetlands were drained between 1920 and 1980 for pastoral land use. They have been reduced by about 90% nationally, and many remaining wetland areas are still under pressure from land development.

Of those that are left, many are small and their natural character and habitat quality are degraded by partial drainage, damage by farm animals and weed invasion. Lowland wetlands have been mostly affected and are still at risk in some cases.

Mr Park says the Council has helped more than 110 landowners to actively manage their wetlands since a Wetlands Incentive Programme kicked off five years ago.

In addition, 10 of the best wetlands across the region are being improved through GW’s Key Native Ecosystem programme. The programme delivers targeted pest plant and animal control to key sites outside the Regional Parks in an effort to make them self-sustaining into the future.

GW is also helping five community groups across the region restore wetlands at Makara Estuary, Waikanae Estuary and Waimeha Lagoon in Waikanae, Henley Lakes and Millennium Reserve in Masterton as well as assisting Forest and Bird with the restoration of Pauatahanui Inlet. This year GW helped the Makaracarpas community care group with the fencing of the Makara Estuary salt marsh.

Many of the Regional Parks that GW manages also have spectacular examples or natural wetlands such as the Pencarrow Lakes in East Harbour Regional Park and the inter-dune wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park.

For more on wetlands visit www.gw.govt.nz/wetlands or email wetlands@gw.govt.nz


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