Many of New Zealand’s wetland plants and animals are found nowhere else in the world. Many face an uncertain future because of habitat loss and introduced pests. Wetland restoration and providing fish access can help protect our wetland plants and animals.
Wetlands support an amazing number of species and some of them are very unusual. Freshwater wetlands now cover less than one per cent of New Zealand’s land area, but they are home to 16 per cent of our bird species and over 50 species of native fish.
Many of New Zealand’s wetland plants and animals are endemic (meaning they are found nowhere else in the world). Black mudfish, fernbirds, cabbage trees and flax are among our endemic species.
Plants and animals that live in wetlands face an uncertain future. Because of habitat loss and damage, many, like the Australasian bittern and short-jawed kokopu, are now threatened species.
Conservation and restoration programmes can make a big difference and it’s not too difficult to create conditions ideally suited to our wetland wildlife. Find out more about restoring wetlands.
The swards of rush-like plants found in the region’s peat bogs are unique to the Southern Hemisphere. Two plants found only in the Waikato are the giant cane rush (Sporadanthus ferrugineus) and the threatened swamp helmet orchid (found only in the Whangamarino Wetland).
Other highly threatened plants, such as a clubmoss, a hooded orchid and a carnivorous bladderwort, also occur in the lower Waikato wetlands.
Notable birdlife include the threatened Australasian bittern and the endemic North Island fernbird. It is estimated that 25 percent of the total bittern population in New Zealand and one of the largest populations of North Island fernbird live in the Whangamarino Wetland.
Wetland margins are also home to the secretive marsh and spotless crakes, the endemic shoveler and grey teal.
Other endemic wetland birds include:
Thousands of mallard ducks reside in the Waikato wetlands and provide recreation for hunters.
Waikato wetlands are important habitats for native fish such as the threatened black mudfish. Black mudfish spend their life in wetlands, drains or weed-filled creek beds. They are able to burrow deeply into mud or under logs and aestivate (lie semi-dormant) for months at a time during dry spells. This means they can occupy temporary wetlands not accessible to other fish.
The more common, but still threatened, inanga, whose juveniles make up the bulk of the whitebait catch, are present in large numbers in wetlands connected to the region’s rivers. Banded and giant kokopu (historically an important food source for Māori and early European settlers) are present in some wetlands.
Find out more about fish access in local wetlands and waterways.
Species management is the responsibility of several agencies:
Updated August 2017