Protecting wetlands across New Zealand
Posted By QEII | February 2, 2021
World Wetlands Day is held on 2 February every year, which 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’s theme highlights wetlands as a source of freshwater and encourages actions to restore them and stop their loss.
Many of our covenantors with wetlands are proud to play a crucial part in protecting Aotearoa’s wetland biodiversity through private land protection, including Mike and Pip Meuli who have recently protected a kahikatea forest and wetland complex block on their farm on the West Coast of the South Island and Tim Brownlie who has recently protected two small areas of wetlands on the East Coast of the North Island.
Mike and Pip Meuli’s property is located alongside the true left bank of the Mahināpua Creek, just south of Hokitika. They’re committed to permanently protecting this one-hectare block of coastal wetland rainforest and they recognise its important contribution as a valuable ecological corridor and want to share its intrinsic beauty with the public.
Mahināpua Creek is a historic waterway, which provided passage to logging and goldfields in the past. Nowadays, it is frequented by walkers, cyclists and kayakers. A public walkway passes through an easement on the property, with the adjacent West Coast Wilderness Cycle Trail offering spectacular views of the covenant. The Mahināpua tourist paddleboat cruises by the covenant block, providing an alternative view of the wetland forest remnant and its wild inhabitants from the water. Mike and Pip are passionate and want to make sure that this special place will remain forever for people to enjoy.
Only 3% of lowland kahikatea forest remains in the local ecological district and this remnant is a quintessential example, containing high biodiversity values. Although the covenanted block is small, it contributes to the protected adjacent areas of the Mahināpua Creek Conservation Area and the Fish and Game riparian reserve. Many indigenous birds inhabit the area, such as the Australasian bittern, white heron, grey duck, black shag and fernbird, while indigenous freshwater fish species present include shortjaw kokopu, giant kokopu, and longfin eel.
Our regional representative for the West Coast, Martin Abel, has influenced Mike and Pip with his informative enthusiasm for the importance of conservation of lowland wetlands and rainforest as they support ecological corridors from the hills to the coast. The relationship between the Meuli’s and Martin has been a driving force to ensuring protection of not only the covenant block but also fencing and weed management in other patches of bush.
On the East Coast of the North Island, landowner Tim Brownlie has recently a QEII National Trust covenant approved near Wairoa which protects two small areas of wetland. The Brownlie family aren’t new to the concept of QEII covenants, with these two blocks being the 6th and 7th blocks they have protected on the farm. Despite much of the surrounding land getting very dry in summer, these natural basins don’t dry up, meaning they are the perfect spot for sphagnum moss to grow. Also growing in the wetland is the insectivorous sundew Drosera binata,.
This wetland type is more common in areas of high rainfall, but on the East Coast lowland there are just a few examples. Past attempts to drain one of the areas has meant the sphagnum and other bog species are just holding on, but by raising the water level slightly, Tim and Gisborne regional representative Malcolm Rutherford aim to enhance the growing conditions for these species. Keeping stock out of this wetland will be great for the farm too as more than a few cattle have had to be rescued from this area over the years. Hawkes Bay Regional Council is also helping with the cost of fencing these blocks.