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Published: 2004-06-10 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is offering professional help to owners of priority wetlands in the Region which are on or next to dairy farms.

This week’s Environment Committee meeting heard that the Waikato was a national stronghold for wetlands, many of which were on private land. Threats included introduced plants and animals, pollution, stock grazing, fire and drainage.

Terrestrial Ecologist Karen Denyer said there was a need to identify Regionally significant wetlands and their management needs to support landowners who want to actively protect their biodiversity. The Fonterra Clean Streams Accord initiative to fence Regionally significant wetlands presented an opportunity for Environment Waikato to assist interested landowners to physically protect wetlands on or next to their farms.

Environment Waikato had developed a set of guidelines to identify wetlands of Regional significance - those which are relatively large, have species that are threatened or only found in the Waikato, or wetlands of international or national significance.

About 100 wetlands that touched a dairy farm at any point were identified, showing that many had been totally or partly drained since 1992. The exercise found 1084 properties touching wetlands, of which 360 were dairy farms.

The Biodiversity Advisory Service operator, who is a dairy farmer, phoned landowners of the 15 highest priority wetlands. Each were offered the full cost of up to three days of an independent consultant ecologist to discuss their goals for the wetland, look at special features, threats and management needs, help the landowner complete a management plan and apply for funding to complete their plans.

Nine landowners readily accepted the offer, two declined and others were still considering. Three wetlands had been visited and the owners were very appreciative of the support and one-on-one advice.

Care groups would be established for the highest priority wetlands and four were planned in the Council’s Long-Term Council Community Plan.

Cr Evan Penny said he was pleased to see some traction being developed on the wetland issue but was concerned that some were under threat and already in a degraded state.

Cr Lois Livingston said that it was important that the council had an overall picture of what was happening in the Region and didn’t undertake the work in ‘bits’.