Years of effort pay off as wetland rated nation's best
Native plants are taking the place of dying willows at Para Swamp near Koromiko, rated the best freshwater wetland in the country by the New Zealand Game Bird Habitat Trust.
Trust board member Susan King of Ward said the 120ha Marlborough wetland ranked highest of all those assessed by ecological consulting company Wildlands.
As well as ecological significance, standout features included a prominent position alongside State Highway One and management by Nelson Marlborough Fish & Game of an existing plan.
Also, there were no background disputes or controversies, Ms King said.
Since deciding to prioritise the Para project, the trust had contributed money towards buying more land and employed Blenheim-based consultant Karen Walshe to write a restoration plan, liaise with relevant groups and individuals and seek more funding.
Long-term, the group aimed to encourage the public to enjoy the area as well as gamebird hunters, she said.
This could involve building interpretive signs, board-walks and perhaps a visitors' centre. The trust had already contributed close to $95,000 toward the Para Swamp restoration before deciding it was especially significant, Ms King said.
This was being spent on aerial poisoning and drilling and killing willows using glyphosate herbicide.
The Game Bird Habitat Trust is an independent board funded by the sale of wildlife stamps and a portion of gamebird hunting licences.
Fish & Game Nelson-Marlborough manager Neil Deans said it was wonderful to see a wetland widely regarded as significant in Marlborough being valued nationally.
Mr Deans accepted much of the wetland was not pretty at present as workers poisoned willows.
However, the landscape was already improving as native plants including flax, carex, cabbage trees and kahikatea took their place.
Efforts to restore the wetland as a game bird habitat and conservation area began more than 30 years ago with the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society, he said. Its area had grown from 35ha to 125 ha, as Fish & Game purchased and was gifted more land.
"Now we have support from the trust we can scale up to a different level."
Fish & Game managed about 105ha of the 120ha wetland, Mr Deans said.
COME AND SEE
Members of the public are invited to visit the Para wetland on world wetlands day on Saturday February 2, from 10am until mid-day.
To attend, meet at the Fish & Game billboard at the northern end of the wetland or contact Vaughan Lynn on 027 222 5928.
- The Marlborough Express