Waikato’s wetlands are environmental “nurseries” that support healthy animals, plants and water quality, says Environment Waikato sustainable agriculture coordinator Bala Tikkisetty.
He was commenting ahead of World Wetlands Day held on 2 February each year to mark the adoption of the international Convention of Wetlands in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar.
Each year’s anniversary of the Ramsar Convention adoption is used to publicise wetland values and benefits.
Mr Tikkisetty explained that wetland is a generic term for the wet margins of lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, estuaries, lagoons, bogs and swamps.
Large areas of Waikato wetlands have disappeared due to the development of farmland through activities such as draining, burning and clearing.
Mr Tikkisetty said that the Waikato’s wetlands have often been viewed as boggy wastelands or as just a sort of natural drain.
“But in fact they are unique ecosystems that help filter material – such as nitrogen and phosphorous - out of water before it gets into waterways and lakes.
“Wetlands play an important role in flood management and support biodiversity by providing a place for animals, fish, birds and native plants to flourish. They also support recreational fishing and hunting.
“And their importance to Maori as mahinga kai (food gathering areas) and as a source of plants for medicines and dyes is well recognised.”
Mr Tikkisetty said he was available on 0800 800 401 to provide free advice to landowners about wetland protection and management, including advice on fencing, planting and weed control.
“Fencing keeps stock out, preventing pugging of the wetland margins and helping keep stock effluent out of the wetlands.
“Appropriate planting around the edges of the wetland helps reduce diffuse pollution from surrounding farmland, provides cover for wildlife, reduces bank erosion and reduce the temperature of water through shading.”