Posted By QEII National Trust | January 29, 2020

World Wetlands Day is coming up this weekend on 2 February. Held on the same day every year, it marks the adoption of the International Convention on Wetlands in 1971 in Iran and gives us a chance to further appreciate our wonderful wetlands.

This year, the theme for World Wetlands Day is wetlands and biodiversity. With many New Zealand wetland species threatened or at risk, we have a bit of a soft spot for wetlands. Many of our covenantors with wetlands are proud to play a crucial part in protecting Aotearoa’s wetland biodiversity.

One newly QEII protected wetland covenant can be found in Ashburton. Craig and Lyn Galloway bought their farm in 1986 on the south bank of the North Branch of the Ashburton River. When they purchased the property, all paddocks had been developed except for the wetland paddock which remained uncultivated.

Craig and Lyn applied to the Ashburton Water Zone committee for a grant to expand their successful riparian planting programme to the margin of a stream and man-made pond. They were initially surprised, then delighted, when ECAN and QEII representatives pointed out the rarity of the unprepossessing spring-fed wetlands in the stony paddock adjacent to the stream and pond. Spring-fed channel wetlands like theirs have virtually disappeared elsewhere on the Canterbury Plains. They decided to place a covenant over the whole six-hectare wetland complex to preserve the relict pre-human vegetation.

The covenant is a rare example of the highly diverse wetland complex and landform created by hydrologically connected springs associated with braided rivers. The wetland ecotone contains a spring-fed mossy fen, bog rush channel wetland, stream, man-made ponds, pukio and kiokio fern swamp, and toetoe marsh.

New Zealand orchid, Spiranthes novae-zelandiae – photo credit Alice Shanks

Even though there is an almost full complement of the expected wetland plant species, some are in perilously low numbers. The Galloway Wetlands protect the only known manuka, sphagnum moss and the pink-flowered wetland ladies tresses orchid (Spiranthes novae-zelandiae) on the Ashburton Plains. Matagouri and the long-lived rhizomatous shrubby violet, known as a porcupine shrub, have survived on the stony ridges in the covenant but both are rarely encountered elsewhere in the region. The landowners plan to supplement these species with new plants, grown from seed sourced from the local area.

This covenant is one of very few that meet all four National Priorities for Protecting Rare and Threatened Biodiversity on Private Land. With assistance from QEII and Environment Canterbury, Craig and Lyn have fenced the area and are now focused on weed control, strategic riparian planting, and predator trapping.