Canterbury's historic wetlands 'no longer exist'
More than 90 per cent of the region's historic wetlands no longer exist, according to Environment Canterbury research.
ECan's senior strategy adviser Tamsin Page presented the information at yesterday's Canterbury water management strategy regional committee meeting.
"Although the rate of degradation has not speeded up [in the last decade], it hasn't stopped either," she said.
"People often take them for granted, or don't realise what used to be there."
Ms Page said there were several reasons for the historic loss of wetlands, ranging from increasing intensive land use to clearing of bush.
The current numbers were mostly based on research carried out two years ago, she said.
"A lot of the damage has been historical, and Canterbury is not unique to the rest of the country in terms of the level of degradation.
"A fifth of native bird species use wetlands as their primary habitat, and not just single wetlands - many bird species rely on a linked series of wetlands on their flyways for resting and feeding."
Ms Page said ECan had developed a database to name every known wetland more than a hectare in area.
"Once you get below that size, it is difficult to quantify them," she said.
Although the Upper Rangitata Valley and Mackenzie Basin had experienced the largest examples of wetland reduction, of the Orari and Opihi zones, only about 522 hectares of the historic wetland areas remained, about 9 per cent of the original historic area.
Ms Page said ECan had established a biodiversity team that worked with local communities to help with the restoration of wetlands.
There had also been an increase in funding sources, such as the Government's fresh start for freshwater fund, or ECan's immediate steps. Since the start of the Immediate Steps Fund, 21 wetland projects across the region have been funded.
In South Canterbury, the Wainono Lagoon will receive more than $1.5 million in funding from government and other sources over the next five years towards its cleanup.
"The upcoming land and water plan also has targets to ensure that all remaining wetlands are not degraded, and in some places will be enhanced," she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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