The improvement of Southland’s Waituna Lagoon and catchment health and wellbeing has become the focus for a number of organisation with statutory roles for this unique site.
The Waituna Lagoon is part of the 20,000ha Awarua Wetland, a designated Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and one of the best remaining examples of a natural coastal lagoon in New Zealand. It is culturally significant to the local Ngāi Tahu people, acknowledged under the Ngāi Tahu claims Settlement Act 1998.
In recognition of the importance of this natural resource, the Department of Conservation (DOC), Environment Southland (ES), the Southland District Council (SDC), Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and Te Rūnanga o Awarua have formally come together to work alongside the community and other stakeholders for the long-term benefit of Waituna Lagoon, its catchment and community.
Concern was raised in February 2011 about the poor health of the lagoon. Monitoring information from ES and DOC, drawn together for the Report on the State of Southland’s Freshwater Environment, showed it was at risk of flipping into an algae- dominated state.
A multi-pronged emergency response was initiated and remedial practices were put in place, further scientific investigations were undertaken and communication channels established for sharing information.
While flipping remains a potential risk, the focus is now a long-term one to improve the health and wellbeing of the Lagoon, its catchment and community. Formalising the statutory partners’ group is a strong, futurefocused commitment ensuring their actions are aligned and complementary, and that they are working together in the most effective way possible.Setting and achieving goals will require considerable effort over a number of years. An organised structure to guide efforts allows for a comprehensive and coordinated approach designed to achieve greater improvements than if organisations worked separately and avoids duplication of effort. Working in partnership with the local farmers, the community and industry will be crucial to the success of the project.
To recognise the establishment of this formal arrangement, a ceremony took place on August 8 at Te Rau Aroha Marae in Bluff, where the terms of reference to guide the on-going relationship between the partners of the Waituna Partners Group were officially signed.
A web camera recently installed at Waituna Lagoon is providing scientists with regularly updated images of Walker’s Bay, where the lagoon was opened to the sea in late July. Aquatic Ecologist, Dr Andy Hicks said the main benefit of the web camera was to help monitor the lagoon’s opening and closing processes, and to help with the long-term monitoring of environmental conditions in the lagoon.
“The camera allows us to keep an eye on the lagoon without having to physically be there,” he said. Setting up the remotely activated camera was a challenge, plus occasional issues mostly related to the weather. Environment Southland technical staff have now resolved them.
Dr Hicks said the images taken by the camera would be useful for a variety of additional purposes. Recreational boaters would be able to check if lake conditions are suitable for boating, and if the images prove clear enough, the web camera could even be used for monitoring local bird populations.
To help protect the birds, a trapping programme is underway to get rid of ferrets and other pests to provide a safer environment for rare native birds in the Wairarapa Moana wetlands.
These include Australasian bittern, royal spoonbill and the dabchick. Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) started trapping around Matthews lagoon and Boggy Pond in July. Using covered traps that exclude birds, pest animal officer Steve Playle was successful straight away, catching 13 ferrets and three feral cats in the first month.
“These are large and powerful predators that need to catch and kill regularly. If we can control them around the wetlands, the wetland birds are bound to increase in numbers,” he said.
Hawke’s Bay wetland bird expert and Ducks Unlimited president John Cheyne, said numbers of Australasian bittern were low in a count taken earlier this year, and the work being done by officers like Steve should help raise bird numbers in the wetlands.
“There is a lot of great wetland habitat at Wairarapa Moana, but I only heard eight bitterns calling. There should be more.
Trapping ferrets and feral cats should allow them and all the other ground-nesting birds to breed more successfully.” The trapping programme is part of a wider project to enhance the wetlands around Wairarapa Moana, involving the councils, DoC, iwi, farmers, environmental groups and the community.
Story courtesy of the Greater Wellington Regional Council.
“We had a great day – about 1600 plants in the ground!” was the enthusiastic report from Jim Law after a successful planting day at Wairio Wetland in southern Wairarapa.
Mainly flaxes and sedges (about 1200) were planted around the southern and south eastern sides of the new dam wall at Stage 4 and 400 Totora and cabbage trees planted went in at Stage 2.
A good turn-out included Martinborough School students and staff, Taratahi trainees, Rangitane members, Rotary members, Greater Wellington Regional Council (who provided the sausage sizzle), some Rabobank staff, DOC staff and a few locals plus some co-opted farm workers - about 60 folks in all.
More clover seed was sown on the dam wall at Stage 4 by Ross Cottle and Jim Campbell.
A good year so far at the Wairio Wetland – in total just over 4000 shrubs, flaxes and trees in the ground and a great new dam wall trapping about 30 hectares of water in Stage 4. There is more to come with plans advancing for the reticulation of water from Mathews Lagoon and Boggy Pond into the Wairio Wetland.
Our intrepid group of AGM attendees visited the Pekapeka Swamp, squeezed in between the railway on the Eastern side, and State Highway 2 on the West. This area is well known to travellers who use SH2 south of Hastings. Older people who passed this way remember the swamp as being totally overgrown by grey willow. Steve Cave, Operations Environmental Manager for the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC) explained the 98ha site is being restored to protect the cultural and historical value but also to help people understand the significance and important part wetlands play.
When Maori arrived in the area about 1530 this peat swamp, part of the limestone area, would have been very different. Its trip down hill started in 1873 with the dumping of rubble, fill and waste. The rail line was built in 1875. Between 1942 and 1970 channels were dug to drain the swamp, and in 1955 SH2 was straightened, cutting through the western side.
In 1970 Pekapeka was made a reserve. Willow control started in 1984 and finally a management plan to restore the wetland was approved by the HBRC. Helicopter and ground spraying targeted the willows. Community and school groups have put in many volunteer hours at the swamp. A clearing programme improved the flow of water through the wetland, and controlled animal and plant pests.
A plain to restore the wetland was approved by the HBRC in 1998. Work included a weir with a fish passage, to manage wetland flow, and funding allowed the site to be developed as a public reserve. Illegal dumping had continued at Pekapeka for many years and as a reminder of how wetlands had been treated it was decided to leave some rubble and reinforcing rods exposed as a reminder of the past.
Pekapeka opened to the public in 2010. Board walks, observation decks and even hides provide access and viewing points. Information boards give background and there is a picnic area. No toilets though. During duck shooting members of a local club use half the area and it is closed to the public. Club members are also involved in a predator control programme.
Steve said red tape, and resource consents often hold up restoration. So far it has cost them $60,000 for consents, eating into the small amount of funding they do receive. Thank goodness for volunteers.
The plight of the world’s wetlands is highlighted annually by World Wetlands Day, and the 2011 celebration also coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Ramsar Convention - an international agreement to promote and protect freshwater environments. See page 14.
Since the agreement was signed in 1971, 186 million hectares of wetlands have been protected throughout the world - including 55,000ha in New Zealand.
Since European settlement New Zealand has lost more than 90 percent of its wetlands - many drained to create farmland and supposedly help with flood control.
Now the Department of Conservation (DOC) and community groups are working to redress the balance aiming to educate people about the importance of wetlands - rated amongst the most important, productive and highly threatened ecosystems in the world.
Wetlands provide a range of crucial ecosystem services such as improving water quality, controlling extreme flooding, regulating carbon levels and supplying fresh water.
DOC refers to wetlands as “cradles of biological diversity” and says they support a high number of threatened plants and animals, as well as providing the greatest concentration of birdlife than any other habitat in New Zealand.
Wetlands are especially important to Māori and have historical importance having provided abundant supplies of food and materials used in everyday life during early times. Flax was used in clothing, mats, kits and ropes; raupo for thatching and dried moss for bedding. Eels, fish and birds from the wetlands were a good food source, and the feathers of birds like the pukeko and bittern were used to adorn cloaks and other garments. The waterways were also an important means of access by waka or canoe. New Zealand species New Zealand wetlands have exceptional habitats - 47 species of rush and 72 species of native sedge alone - as well as a number of endangered plant species that totally depend on the wetland environment.
Migratory birds also depend on chains of suitable wetlands and the survival of threatened species such as the Australasian bittern, brown teal, fernbird, marsh crake and white heron all rely on New Zealand’s remnant wetland areas.
Native fish also need wetlands and eight of New Zealand’s 27 species including inanga, short-finned eels, kokopu and bullies are found in wetlands. Whitebait also spawn in freshwater wetlands.
Nearly 700 hectares of wetlands at Banrock Station are being artificially flooded. This is the first time in five years the area near Kingston-onMurray, has seen flooding.
Banrock Station, in the South Australian Riverland, is on the Ramsar list of internationally significant wetlands.
A new regulator is pumping 2.4 gigalitres of water into the wetlands, a task which will take the next year.
Wetlands manager Christophe Tourenq said the process should mimic the natural wet-dry cycles of the flood plain, boosting the health of native plants and wildlife in the area.
Christophe said they had high water levels all spring and after that water levels would be reduced a little bit during summer.
“After that, again high levels next winter and then we start again to have a dry wetland in two years time.”
He said the process would recreate what happened before the construction of locks and weirs along the Murray River.
Story courtesy Wetland Care Australia.
Our business is to harness community, business and government resources to restore and develop lost wetland areas within New Zealand.
Tree protection trial
The accompanying photos show Cabbage and Totora trees planted in Grotectors (tree protectors) at Stage 2 in the Wairio Wetland.
They were designed by Don Bell, a DU member who has been involved with the Wairio Restoration Project since its inception. These protectors are being monitored as part of the various plant survival studies being conducted by Victoria University students. It is also hoped to get students from a local secondary school involved in the monitoring process.
As the photos indicate, the plants protected seem to be doing well versus their unprotected neighbours that were similarly planted on spot sprayed sites. In addition to enhancing growth rates, the sheer visibility of the Grotector enables easy follow-up release spraying.
Based on the good results from 2013 the restoration committee decided to use these protectors for the larger plant species this year, especially Kahikatea and Totora.
Rotary support at Wairio
The South Wairarapa Rotary Club (SWRC) recently made a $1600 grant towards the restoration of the Wairio Wetland. The SWRC has contributed $14,480 in total since 2007 – they have been great supporters of this project.
It is one of the long-term environmental projects they support in the South Wairarapa.
In addition to the cash contribution that goes towards the cost of plants (sedges, flaxes and specimen trees, the likes of Totora and Kahikatea) being used in the restoration of the Wetland Rotary members assist in the planting days. It is one way Rotary both contributes to, and participates in community activities. DU certainly appreciate the contributions.
Wet day planting at Wairio Wetland
A team of environmental enthusiasts turned up in late April for this year’s first planting at the Wairio Wetland. It was a wet day, great for the plants and not too bad for the enthusiasts but coats were definitely required!
Planters included a great team of young women from Taratahi’s equine school who worked tirelessly in the rain. There were the usual Ducks Unlimited stalwarts and representatives from Greater Wellington Regional Council and Doc. Unfortunately, attendance by teams of students from the local primary schools had to be cancelled because of the wet weather. A GWRC team also put on a BBQ that was most popular once the allotted 650 plants were in the ground.
The planting was in a newly fenced off area of Stage 4 along the south eastern fringe of the wetland improved by the construction of a bund wall during 2013. This area has become very popular with local waterfowl with hundreds of ducks, swans and native waders taking flight when the planters arrived. In the years to come waterfowl will be able to fly into a much enhanced wetland as a result of the good work by the planters.
The next planting was July 4. Hope they had a great day.
Little Llangothlin Lagoon is a rare and unique tableland wetland, internationally listed as one of the most important wetlands in the world!
WetlandCare Australia are currently working with landholders around the Lagoon planting trees, fencing and more to provide a buffer to this vitally important waterbird haven.
Protecting and restoring this wonderful wetland will not only provide secure habitat for wildlife and native plants, it will also improve the health of the entire catchment with benefits to local agriculture and communities long into the future from clean water, abundant wildlife
and healthy pastures.
The Little Llangothlin Lagoon catchment area is located on the Northern Tablelands near the township of Guyra in New South Wales. The Lagoon itself is a part of the Little Llangothlin Nature Reserve which covers an area of 258 hectares and is listed as an Australian Ramsar site.
Supporting various threatened plant and animal species, the Reserve incorporates several threatened ecological communities. Protecting these valuable ecosystems is key to securing the health of the catchment for years to come.