MANAGING WETLANDS AS FARM ASSETS

The Managing Wetlands as Farm Assets practical project aims to work with a cross-section of farmers to provide advice and share knowledge about the benefits wetlands offer the farming system and the wider community.

The project is funded by Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures administered by the Ministry of Primary Industries and

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

Fourteen wetland demonstration sites are being set up, focusing 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

Benefits of managing wetlands as a farm asset

There has been a significant loss of wetlands throughout the country over many years, with 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.

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. 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. 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.

Every wetland counts – sometimes a piece of scraggly vegetation 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 then being unsure 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. 

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.”

“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”

– Ian Mackenzie, Chair of the Steering Group

Tony Watson-Project Coordinator

Tony joined the project in December 2021. He has a strong background in the agriculture sector and a long family history of farming on the Canterbury Plains. Tony is practical and hands-on and knows the challenges and the seasonal requirements of farming across Canterbury. His knowledge and experience will see him work alongside demonstration sites and farmer extension groups as the project boosts knowledge about the benefits wetlands offer the farming system and the wider community.

Please contact Tony at tony.watson@landcare.org.nz for more information on project activities and opportunities to get involved.