Predator-proof fence for wetland

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 22/11/2012
Wetlands
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ

CONSERVING WETLANDS Players in the National Wetland Centre plan, from left, Mighty River Power environmental adviser Michelle Archer, National Wetland Trust executive officer Karen Denyer, Waikato River Authority’s Sean Newland, and trust chairman Tony Roxburgh.

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Work is about to start on a nationally significant pest-free environment centre south of Hamilton, with a fence to keep out pests the first step.

The National Wetland Trust of New Zealand has secured funding and crossed the legal bridges needed to build a 1.4km predator-proof fence that will surround up to 14 hectares of peat lake, wetland and bush at Lake Serpentine.

A $600,000 injection from the Waikato River Authority during last year's funding round was key.

The fence will surround one of three lakes in the wetland complex, near Ohaupo, that are owned by the Conservation Department and Waipa District Council.

Trust chairman Tony Roxburgh said conservation tended to eschew wetlands in favour of terrestrial animals like kiwi at places such as nearby Maungatautari ecological island.

"People are often quite ignorant about the value of wetlands," he said. "They've always been regarded as wastelands and we're losing them rapidly around the countryside so it's important we get a message out. While there are other wetland sites around the country, and groups have promoted the wetland story, we hope this will be the national complex to give that national perspective."

The trust is now seeking expressions of interest to build the predator-proof fence.

All going to plan, it will be finished before next winter. Then pest eradication can begin.

It follows what trust executive officer Karen Denyer called "exciting" news on the "fauna front".

An expert recently conducted detailed surveys of Lake Serpentine and confirmed the presence of the Australasian bittern, spotless crake and fernbird.

The entire project is estimated to cost $1.7 million and the final design is expected to include artificial examples of the country's wetlands - braided river, geothermal and estuarine.

Waikato River Authority trust fund manager Sean Newland said the project was practical, educational and one that connected with the community. "It's a good example of a wetland type that is disappearing in the catchment," he said.

"Also, it's a great way to connect community with both the catchment, the river and the lake. Part of the issue we have is to get people to recognise what we're losing and, from the authority's perspective, what we're working to protect."

Funding also came from the Waikato Catchment Ecological Enhancement Trust, the Lottery Environment and Heritage Fund and Wel Energy Trust. More money is needed though to build the centre's visitor building, interpretation signs and tracks through the wetland.

Ms Denyer said the aim was for the centre to become a financially self-sustaining destination of national significance that would boost the Waipa district's reputation as a tourist destination. It would also benefit the local economy, she said. "I'm not an economist, but it stands to reason - if you've got a national wetland centre that's a destination, you've got a big tourist route.

"If you've got the centre here, Maungatautari ecological island there and the Otorohanga kiwi house, that's a big incentive."

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- Waikato Times

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