Managing Wetlands As Farm Assets

Managing Wetlands As Farm Assets

Managing Wetlands as Farm Assets



This practical project aims to work with a cross-section of farmers to provide advice and share knowledge about the range of benefits wetlands offer the farming system and the wider community. It is funded by the Sustainable Farming Fund with co-funding from

Environment Canterbury
NZ Landcare Trust
NZ Deer Farmers Association
Deer Industry New Zealand
NZ Merino
DairyNZ
Overseer Ltd.

With additional support from Fonterra and Federated Farmers. Fourteen wetland demonstration sites are being set up, with a focus on the protection and restoration of wetlands. The demonstration sites cover a range of wetlands, across the different farming systems and varying ecological zones of Canterbury. Three constructed wetland types are also included. The project will run until mid-2023.

To view, some of these case study sites on a map, use the below link


https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/ab30c587ea2d4352963dbd4541dcf3c1

When wetlands are integrated into the farm, they become assets with a range of benefits. A healthy wetland offers improved environmental benefits and reduced environmental compliance costs (e.g. slowing run-off and reducing excess water, trapping sediment, reducing nutrient run-off). During floods, wetlands and riparian buffers can slow runoff and absorb excess water. This reduces peak flows and can reduce downstream flooding.

Restoring a former wetland can reduce operating costs. For instance, returning a permanently boggy patch of the farm to a wetland can eliminate the need to rescue stuck sheep, offering savings in time and reduced stock losses.
On-farm wetlands also provide recreational spaces, improved amenities for rural communities, and eco-tourism opportunities. 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.
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.

Every wetland counts - but sometimes we drive past a piece of scraggly vegetation without realising it is the last gasp of a wetland that once covered a much larger area. While most farmers want to farm sustainably, some have concerns about having a wetland area identified on the farm, and it can be hard to know how to protect and manage it. Experience shows it is easier to protect and restore what remains, rather than starting from scratch. This project will provide practical support and showcase how farmers can lead and undertake such projects, with support from others when required.

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.



Tony Watson-Project Coordinator


Tony joined the project in December 2021. He has a strong background in the ag sector and a long family history of farming on the Canterbury Plains. Tony is practical and hands-on and knows the challenges of farming and the seasonal requirements of farming across Canterbury. His knowledge and experience will see him work alongside demonstration sites and farmer extension groups as we build knowledge about the benefits wetlands offer the farming system and the wider community.
Please contact Tony at [email protected] for more information on project activities and opportunities to get involved.

Links to great wetland resources:
• Wetland Handbook series published by Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research - a range of practical resources: https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/wetland-handbook-series/
• Wetlands Mapping – What’s the Story: follow this link for information on how ECan identifies and maps wetlands and a range of information on consent processes for works that may impact a wetland and other background information: https://www.ecan.govt.nz/get-involved/news-and-events/2019/wetlands-mapping-whats-the-story/
• NZ Landcare Trust wetland resources: https://www.landcare.org.nz/resource-item/wetlands

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