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Farm field trip highlights role of wetlands

Farm field trip highlights role of wetlands

27 January 2014

The important role of wetlands in agriculture will be highlighted at a public field trip in Coastal Taranaki on Sunday (2 February) to mark World Wetlands Day.

The day is marked internationally and this year’s theme is “Wetlands and Agriculture: Partners for Growth”, which Taranaki Regional Council Chairman David MacLeod says is highly relevant to Taranaki.

Sunday’s two-hour field trip starts at 10am at Pipiriki ( Swampy Bush) wetland at 192 Upper Kina, Oaonui, and will conclude with a sausage sizzle.

Pipiriki is significant not only for its location and environmental values, but also for the co-operative effort by a number of Maori owners, Te Tumu Paeroa (the Maori Trustee), the lessee, neighbouring farmer Andrew Pentelow, and the Taranaki Regional Council to protect and enhance the wetland.

At nearly 23 hectares, Pipiriki is one of the largest remnant forest areas remaining in Coastal Taranaki, with vegetation classed as acutely threatened in this area. It is defined as a wetland because it is sited on poor-draining lahar deposits and its plant species reflect the dampness.

The forest has a history of human modification. Some tracks have been cleared through the forest and parts of the wetland have been intensively grazed by livestock. This has left little understorey growth and an incomplete forest canopy.

However, thanks to the combined efforts of the owners and the lessee, the wetland is now under QE2 National Trust covenant. This has opened the way for funding assistance for protection and enhancement. Fences have been erected to exclude stock and allow forest regeneration, and native understorey vegetation is being replanted.

Pipiriki is classed as a Regionally Significant Wetland and a Key Native Ecosystem by the Taranaki Regional Council, which has drawn up a Biodiversity Plan for the property in conjunction with stakeholders. This covers planting, fence maintenance and control of pest animals and pest plants.

“The important role of wetlands in support of agriculture is becoming clearer and clearer, and there are successful agricultural practices which support healthy wetlands,” says Mr MacLeod.

“In previous times wetlands were often seen as a barrier to agriculture, and they were drained and reclaimed to make farming land available. But today the Council and other agencies and groups work closely with landowners to protect and enhance wetlands, and we’re seeing attitudes change as knowledge increases.”

As well as keeping river systems healthy and consistent, wetlands offer other bonuses:
• They improve water quality by removing nitrates and intercepting phosphates in runoff sediment.
• They are rich ecosystems that support a diversity of plant, animal and bird life.
• They provide recreational value and can add landscape appeal to a farm.
• Wetlands also function as carbon sinks.

ENDS

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