Managing the Waikato’s wetlands is an important role for Environment Waikato, this week’s Environment Committee agreed.
The Waikato Region has lost about 75 percent of its wetlands but remained a wetland stronghold in New Zealand, ecologist Karen Denyer told the Committee. Wetlands are regarded as highly important under the Resource Management Act, and Environment Waikato has a policy of increasing their quantity and quality as well as controls and incentives in its Regional Plan to protect and enhance those that remain.
The Region needed information from research, monitoring and database development to enable the Council to prioritise sites, review policies and assist the dairy industry and landowners to manage and maintain wetlands to enhance the Region’s biodiversity.
The Waikato had three of the nation’s five internationally recognised wetlands, Ms Denyer said. Palustrine wetlands – those with shallow freshwater or high water table supporting plants adapted to wet conditions – had their own particular threats and management needs because they were vulnerable to various activities in their catchments.
Palustrine wetlands include kahikatea swamp forest, peat bogs, raupo reedland, flax land and carex sedgeland.
The Council’s Resource Information Group is developing and maintaining inventories of wetlands so they can be prioritised for management. The Council holds information on native plants and threatened species, current and historic vegetation types and location of covenants and DoC reserves, she said.
It has also initiated research to predict the location of threatened plant species which could be used to assess consent applications, target education and prioritise fencing for protection.
Ways of monitoring the extent and health of wetlands have been developed with the Ministry for the Environment.
The Group has produced a series of factsheets on wetlands and how to manage them, which were very popular. A template has also been developed for landowners wanting to develop their own wetland management plan, and copies are available on Environment Waikato’s web site.
Cr Penny said it was pleasing to see the ‘traction’ that the preservation of wetlands had achieved.
“The state of this Region’s wetlands is of national significance. One of the shames of the past was that wetlands had fallen into such a poor state and I am pleased to see this shift in public attitude.”