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Published: 2001-02-02 00:00:00

A Tamahere wetland has won Environment Waikato’s Best Wetland competition.

Owners Peter Timmins and Cathy O’Connell were presented with their award – a framed aerial photograph of their property – at a breakfast launch of Environment Waikato’s new wetlands website pages to celebrate World Wetlands Day today.

Chairman Neil Clarke told a gathering of about 50 people that wetlands were now some of the country’s rarest and most at-risk ecosystems. They were highly valued for recreational, educational, scientific, aesthetic, spiritual and cultural reasons and were important for flood control, improving water quality, reducing the effects of global warming and as habitat for native species.

However only about a quarter of the original wetlands in the Region still existed, the rest drained and converted to pasture. The Waikato had three of five internationally recognised wetlands – Whangamarino, Kopouatai Peat Dome and the Firth of Thames estuary.

Environment Waikato ran the competition to find the owners of the best privately owned wetlands in the Region and reward them for setting an example of best management practices. Judges were impressed with the range of wetland types, from 100 hectares to small ponds created from damp, weedy paddocks. Owners had done the work to protect water quality, provide wildlife habitat and create a tranquil space, he said.

The winning landowners had blended the wetland into their garden, having inherited a willow jungle when they bought the land. They spent four years cutting, hauling and burning the willow, and put in hundreds of plants, mainly natives.

Winners of the best wetland over five hectares were Barry and Celia Pope who manage Moerangi Station at Kuratau, on the western side of Lake Taupo. The station owners set aside many wetlands on their land to protect the quality of water entering Lake Taupo. The winning wetland is fenced to exclude stock and some plant and animal pest control has been done.

Winners of the best wetland under five hectares were Diane and Russ Sharpe of Rukuhia. The Sharpes turned boggy ragwort infested paddocks into a wildlife haven.

The judges created another highly commended prize for Tracy Fawcett and her father Bruce’s restoration of a heavily grazed totara and kahikatea forest on the banks of the Waitoa River. They also started a nursery to provide plants for other local wetland and forest restorations, forming the Waharoa Landcare Group.

Neil Clarke said the contribution of landowners who created and enhanced wetlands at their own cost made a positive difference to the Region’s biodiversity, flood protection, landscape and water quality.

This media item was current at its release date. The facts or figures it contains may have changed since its original publication.