Ealing Dairies - Demonstration Wetland

Ealing Dairies - Demonstration Wetland

Ian & Sue Thornton - Ealing Dairies
Ealing – near Rangitata, Mid Canterbury


Dairy farmer Ian Thornton spent his childhood exploring nearby swamp land and always had an interest in native fauna. Ian and Sue purchased their Ealing property in 2000 but did not embark on restoring the wetland site until 2016.

Hidden amongst the dense gorse and broom, blackberry, old man’s beard and willows were patches of remnant flax and carex secta, bulrush (raupō), ribbonwood, mingimingi, cabbage tree, toe toe, flax and fern.

Now they have a QEII covenant on their braided river wetland and a great area for kids and adults to enjoy nature and learn about ecosystems, mahinga kai, birds and other wildlife.

A covenant is an agreement between QEII Trust and a landowner to protect land forever. Almost 70% of New Zealand is in private land ownership, so protecting biodiversity and heritage on private land is critical to reversing the decline of indigenous biodiversity and preserving our history.

Weed control has been a huge undertaking and ongoing maintenance is a time-consuming exercise but Ian has a long-term plan in place to manage the wetland.

Ealing Dairies - Demonstration Wetland

There are many different ecosystems on the site including:
• Shady terrace (fernery) – pine forest
• Sunny terrace – natural swamp
• Open plains – created swamp
• Swamp edge – bracken fern beds
• Fungi – very diverse
• Braided riverbed

Planting has been trial and error but is now carried out using locally sourced seed collected by Peter Keller and Ines Stager. Hinds School have been involved with previous plantings and farm staff planted 900 plants this season.

Success to Ian is when they get intensive reseeding in the area and there are bellbirds and tui feeding off the remnant flax and the kowhai trees they have recently planted. There is quite a bit of native planting happening in their area which will have a positive influence on biodiversity in their catchment.

As part of the ‘Managing Wetlands as Farm Assets’ project water testing and ongoing monitoring of the site will help Ian and Sue to continue improving their environmental footprint.

Ealing Dairies - Demonstration Wetland
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