Farm visit showcases wetland

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Environment Canterbury's wetland plant specialist Jason Butt addresses in the wetland area of Ealing Dairies, owned by Ian and Sue Thornton.

New Zealand Landcare Trust have led the charge and got people talking about the benefits of wetlands as farm assets.

It’s part of a three year project looking to work with farmers and the wider community to provide advice on managing wetlands, to share knowledge and show the benefits natural, or constructed wetlands, offer.

As part of the project staff from the trust, with speakers from Environment Canterbury (ECan), hosted a field day this week at two Mid Canterbury demonstration sites; the property of Ian and Sue Thornton, at Ealing, and the property of Angus and Gemma McKenzie, at Lowcliffe.

The day was attended by 60 people, including farmers, members of industry organisations, Ashburton Water Zone Committee members and Ashburton District mayor, Neil Brown.

New Zealand Landcare Trust’s Jo Buckner and Janet Gregory were there as well ECan’s Jason Butt, a wetland plant specialist, and councillor Ian MacKenzie.

Mr MacKenzie is chair of the project.

Wetlands and their habitats are at most threat of disappearing especially with farming systems and we want to help farmers and landowners realise they are an asset rather than a liability, Mr MacKenzie said.

He said the project team had been swamped by landowner interest, requests to view and help develop their wetlands.

Ms Buckner said no one size fits all, it’s different for everyone with stages to go through beginning a project.

Mr Butt said actions for wetland development included understanding the site, its water retention, bird life, its biggest weeds and other threats such as wildlife or rodents.

Despite both wetland farms being in the Ashburton district, the Thornton and McKenzie properties were examples of being very different.

The Thornton’s have a QEII covenant on their braided river wetland which sits alongside the Rangitata River.

They have gained a great deal of knowledge since starting they started restoring the site with weed control, ecosystems and hydrology to mahinga kai, predators control and native plantings.

The McKenzie’s wetland is a living example of the Canterbury Plains dongas/dry gullies, with an eroded headland and a hapua/river-mouth lagoon butting up against beach gravels.

While fenced off many years ago, the wetland shows the coastal squeeze on wetlands along the Canterbury Bight.

The wetland management plan helps the couple address challenges around willow control, native planting and protecting coastal habitat.