The Patullo Wetland - Hawke's Bay

The Patullo Wetland - Hawke's Bay

Proud of positive change - a farmer's story

Every generation creates their own impact on the land – and fourth generation Hawke’s Bay farmer Robert Pattullo of
Newstead Farm is working hard to create a positive legacy for those who follow him.

While in his father’s times it was common practice to drain wetlands and soggy ground by any means possible – even
including the use of explosives – to enable more of the land to be utilised for farming.
Decades on and with the substantial loss of natural wetlands around the country, Robert knew it was time to restore what nature had intended all along.

“My wife Helen and I have always had a long and prosperous relationship with Andrew Burton, Senior Catchment Advisor at Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC), and we have been quite proactive for a while now, knowing that we are part of the Ahuriri Lagoon catchment and very conscious of that,” Robert says.

“In 2007 we had developed a Farm Environment Plan, so we had a good understanding of our cattle systems and
had identified problem areas with regards to sediment and what we needed to do to avoid that running off into the harbour. It has been a process and it really is about not trying to do everything at once. Breaking it down to manageable changes, bit by bit, that really makes an impact long term.”

The Patullo Wetland - Hawke's Bay

Part of the long-term goals was the reconstruction of the 6ha wetland on the 930ha beef finishing farm. Andrew pulled funding from various sources to fund the restoration and planting of the wetland. Robert worked with Andrew and Nathan Burkepile, Hawkes Bay Regional Coordinator for the NZ Landcare Trust who is also the Trust’s resident wetlands expert.

Nathan says the wetland sat in a natural basin and was spring fed. Robert’s father hadn’t been able to fully drain the wetland and the ground was too boggy for efficientgrazing. A close inspection of the wetland indicated that it was originally a shallow peat lake very similar to another not too far away.

“Robert also showed us another low area above the drained peat lake that was another drained wetland that he wanted restored. Unlike the peat lake which was spring fed this wetland was fed through surface water. It had been drained by his father excavating a ditch through the bottom end of the wetland,” Nathan says.

A wetland restoration plan for both wetlands was developed. This proposed wetland restoration project was in the upper portion of the Ahuriri catchment which is a priority catchment for the regional council to improve water quality. HBRC provided funding for the restoration work as part of its Hot Spot initiative and they also worked with the landowner to get more funding from the Ministry for Primary Industries 1 Billion Trees Program.

The restoration work began in earnest in January of 2020 and in just 15 months, the results have been very positive, says Robert. What started with excavation work and finished with native plantings around and throughout the wetland, the influx of water was quick, and the biodiversity results are astounding – including the return of pied stilts, as well as ducks, and a range of other birds and creatures.

The Patullo Wetland - Hawke's Bay

Essential Wetlands

Wetlands are a vital part of the landscape providing ecosystem services including clean water, reduced flooding, carbon storage and
habitat for wildlife. Across New Zealand, it is estimated that 90 percent of the wetlands have been drained for agriculture or development. Recent research has indicated that this decline is still ongoing despite protections set out in the Resource Management Act. It is estimated that wetlands covered about 20 percent of the country’s land mass, while now they are less than two percent.

Many of the remaining wetlands in the lowland areas are degraded due to current and past management practices. Due to this significant reduction in wetlands and the degraded states of the remaining wetlands, we have seen increased flooding, while a large
number of native species dependant on wetlands are threatened and declining through most of their range.

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