Managing Wetlands As Farm Assets

Managing Wetlands As Farm Assets

A government-funded project to set up 30 demonstration wetlands around the Canterbury region has been announced.

Funded as part of the Sustainable Farming Fund latest round, the management of wetlands in Canterbury is the focus of the new project – enabling farmers to learn more about how to manage and create wetlands on their farms and turn them into assets.

The project, initially set up by Janet Gregory, is managed by Jo Buckner, Canterbury Regional Coordinator for the NZ Landcare Trust. It has also received co-funding from Environment Canterbury, NZ Landcare Trust, NZ Merino, DairyNZ and Overseer Ltd.

“We will establish a farmer reference group to drive the project that will look at how management and issues such as weed control and fencing can be improved as well as identifying values of different wetland types and how best to protect them,” Janet says.

This project aims to identify how farm wetlands can be managed to recognise all their values – economic, environmental, recreational and cultural – in a way that works for the farmer, and is practical. The project will also address the knowledge gaps that currently exist, and work to fit in with the economic reality of farming.

The project will work with farmers to set up 30 demonstration wetlands across Canterbury, and develop cluster groups of landowners around each one, to provide advice and share knowledge.

Facing the challenge to manage wetlands in both a sustainable and economic way, while recognising how wetlands on private land often provide wider, off-farm benefits for the local communities are two of the focus areas of the project.

DairyNZ will share information from other projects on how wetlands filter nutrients whilst Overseer Ltd will work with farmers to gain information to include in the model. Constructed wetlands will be established so farmers can learn how these are established and monitoring will identify costs and benefits that can be shared with the wider community.

A key component of this project is to incorporate mātauranga Māori alongside farming and scientific knowledge. Wetlands are considered taonga for Ngāi Tahu and with protection of Mahinga Kai now being included in Farm Environment Plans for some Canterbury districts, it is a good opportunity to share this knowledge and develop management options that include this.

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

“Whilst most farmers want to farm sustainably, many remain concerned about the implications of having areas identified as wetlands and are uncertain about how to best manage them. This includes addressing matters that go beyond regulatory compliance, such as weed control when stock is excluded, or what species to plant in different areas. This project will showcase how farmers can lead and undertake such projects, with support from others when required,” Janet says.