IMG_4199Yesterday, the family and I visited a newly-built bird hide at the wetlands in QEII Park, near Paekakariki (see Paekakariki: perch of the green parrot). This bird hide differs from the traditional duck-shooter’s “maimai”, in that the only shooting it provides for is with a camera. (more…)

It is with both horror and immeasurable sadness that I contemplate the tragic consequences of last Tuesday’s massive earthquake on the city that I lived in for 8 years, and which I still regard with immense affection. I cannot even begin to imagine how life must be like for its residents today, especially those who have friends or family who have perished. (more…)

With its opening in 2006, the 6.5 hectare Waitangi Park, on Wellington’s waterfront [click here to view location], became New Zealand’s largest new urban park in 100 years. Waitangi Park is near the site of the old Waitangi wetland, which was fed by the Waitangi Stream. Rich with eel, fish and shellfish, it was used for centuries by Maori for food gathering, as a source of fresh water, and as a place to launch their canoes (or waka) into the sea. (more…)

In a follow-up to the story on the Waikanae River restoration project, the Kapiti man behind this remarkable transformation from “wasteland” to “wetland”, John Topliff has this month received an award from Forest and Bird for his contribution to conservation in New Zealand. (more…)

This view, facing east along the Waikanae River just east of the Otaihanga Domain, is of a restored wetland – part of a wider regeneration project along this part of the Waikanae River. Viewed from this angle, with the bush-covered Waikanae hills in the background, it is possible to get some sense of how this part of Kapiti would have looked before it was cleared for farms and settlements in the late 19th century. (more…)

Our environmental history is littered with the stories of wetlands that were drained to make way for farmland or settlements. But in the Wellington region, there is a rare example of a substantial wetland that survived this onslaught. It is an example of how – paradoxically – an environment’s utility as a source of a commercial resource can sometimes provide for its preservation.

Over the last 150 years there were a number of attempts to drain the swamp for farming, but these attempts succeeded in only partially draining the swamp. (more…)

This is a view of Swamp Road, with forms an L-shape through farmland just south of Otaki township [click here to view location]. This shot is taken looking east towards the Tararua Ranges. As hinted by the name, this area, which is the floodplain of the Otaki River, was once a mosaic of wetlands, open water, raupo swamp, flax and swamp forest. However, this has been drained and cleared to make way for farmland. The river, just north of here, is now largely confined to a single channel and the ecosystem is dominated by introduced species. On Swamp Road, the name is the only remaining vestige of its original state – the road runs through a patchwork of market gardens and dairy farms. At the very end of the road, on old sand dune terrain, is the Katihiku Marae.

Source/further reading: Greater Wellington Regional Council

Photo: Catherine Knight

Two environmental histories converge in one landscape. In the foreground is the stunningly beautiful Lake Rotoroa, one of the two lakes in Nelson Lakes National Park, surrounded by wetland vegetation, transitioning into beech forest. In the background is a commercial pine plantation, with one slope scarred by clear-cutting. Nelson Lakes National Park, established in 1956, encompasses 102,000 hectares of the northern most Southern Alps. The lakes were formed by massive glaciers gouging out troughs in the mountainous headwaters of the Buller River during the last Ice Age. The vegetation is predominantly beech, with the red and silver species growing in lower, warmer sites and mountain beech at higher altitudes. The forests are habitat to South Island kaka (a large parrot), tomtits, robins and the tiny rifleman, New Zealand’s smallest bird.

[Photo: Lake Rotoroa, Nelson Lakes National Park, by Rainer Kant]

[Source: Department of Conservation]

Papaitonga is a dune lake in the Horowhenua coastal plain. It is surrounded by a very rare remnant of coastal north island forest. Just south of Levin, the 135 hectare Papaitonga Scenic Reserve is a little known but ecologically and historically remarkable place [click here to view map].

The reserve contains the only intact sequence from wetland to mature dry terrace forest in Wellington and Horowhenua. It is an important refuge for birds that depend on wetlands or lowland forests for their survival. Papaitonga is home to waterfowl and wading birds as well as forest species on the lake’s margins. However, like many remnant wetland forests, the health of this wetland forest is threatened by a receding water table. The reserve is surrounded by farmland which draws on large volumes of water for irrigation. (more…)

Through time, not only has our environment been transformed, but also the way we perceive it and the words we use to describe it. No example illustrates this better than the “swamp” to “wetland” transformation. When European settlement of New Zealand began in earnest about 150 years ago, about 670,000 hectares of freshwater wetlands existed. By the 20th century, this had been reduced to 100,000 hectares. (more…)

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