Managing Wetlands As Farm Assets

Managing Wetlands As Farm Assets

Managing Wetlands as Farm Assets


Every wetland has a story and likewise every farmer has a tale to tell which is why NZ Landcare Trust are hosting a brave conversation about what managing our wetlands as farm assets looks like on a diverse array of properties across the length and breadth of Canterbury.

The aim of the project is to work with farmers to provide advice and share knowledge about the range of benefits wetlands offer the farming system and wider community.

With funding from Sustainable Farming Fund and co-funding from Environment Canterbury, NZ Landcare Trust, NZ Merino, DairyNZ, Fonterra and Overseer Ltd., 15 practical wetland demonstration sites are being set up, including three constructed wetlands. The demonstration sites are being chosen to show a range of wetlands, across the different farming systems and varying ecological zones of Canterbury.

There has been a huge loss of wetlands throughout the country over many years - 90 percent lost through drainage, land development and land use change. In Canterbury, natural wetlands on the plains are now very rare - remaining wetlands tend to be coastal or in the foothills, high country, or margins of rivers.

While most farmers want to farm sustainably, some have concerns about having a wetland area identified on the farm. It can be hard to know how to protect and manage it. This project will showcase how farmers can lead and undertake such projects, with support from others when required.

The project also allows co-funders to work closely with farmers. DairyNZ has information to share on how wetlands filter nutrients whilst Overseer Ltd will work with farmers to gain information to include in the model. Constructed wetlands are included so farmers can learn how these are established and maintained. Monitoring will identify costs and benefits that can be shared with the wider community.

Managing Wetlands As Farm Assets

From the project chair


Ian Mackenzie, the Chair of the Steering Group, is a mid-Canterbury farmer and regional councillor with personal experience in wetland restoration.

Ian says, “This is an exciting project – we want to show what is needed, such as how to control weeds when stock is excluded, and to provide information so farmers know what species to plant in different areas. Extension activities are key.”

The project will share information about restoring and managing wetlands with local farmers and take it out to the wider farming sector. Activities will include the wisdom of Mātauranga Māori alongside farming and scientific knowledge. This includes mahinga kai – the traditional value of food resources and their ecosystems, and the practices associated with these resources.

“With the protection of mahinga kai now part of Farm Environment Plans for some Canterbury districts, we want farmers to understand why wetlands are regarded as taonga – as treasured natural resources. We have a good opportunity to share this knowledge”, says Ian.

When better integrated into the farm, wetlands become assets offering a range of benefits. Reduced operating and compliance costs are a benefit for farmers working to meet their environmental responsibilities. Good wetland management also offers stronger brand “stories” for consumers, through on-farm actions such as stopping any further loss of on-farm biodiversity and then working to improve it. A healthy wetland offers improved environmental benefits (e.g. slowing run-off and reducing excess water, trapping sediment, reducing nutrient run-off), along with the development of recreational spaces, improved amenity for rural communities and eco-tourism opportunities.

Every wetland counts: this practical project aims to show how the sustainable management of wetlands can over time improve the health and well-being of people, and the land and water that sustain us.

These links are great resources:

• Wetland Restoration: A Handbook for New Zealand Freshwater Systems https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/wetland-restoration/
• Te Reo of Te Repo: The Voice of the Wetland https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/te-reo-o-te-repo/

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