Wetlands are permanently or temporarily wet areas that provide habitats for plants and animals specially adapted to wet conditions.
New Zealand has lost 90% of its original wetland area, with large areas of former wetland on flat plains and in valleys drained for use as towns, roads and farmland. The loss has been even more pronounced in Hawke’s Bay, with only 4% of our original wetlands remaining, making them one of the rarest and most threatened ecosystems in the region. Many of our remaining wetlands are heavily modified and under a range of pressures, particularly from pest plant invasion.
Wetlands have important functions and many efforts are being made in Hawke’s Bay to protect and enhance existing wetlands, restore those that have been neglected and create new ones.
Coastal (lagoons & estuaries) - Whakaki Lagoon, Ahuriri Estuary, Tukituki Estuary, Waitangi Estuary, Whakamahi/Whakamahia Lagoons.
Freshwater (swamps, lake margins) - Pekapeka, Lake Whatuma, Lake Runanga, Lake Oingo.
There are many other smaller wetlands on public and private land. Some of these wetlands can be dry at certain times of year, and identification can be tricky as no two wetlands are the same! The process to identify a wetland relies on vegetation, soil and hydrology assessments and may require specialist help.
Wetlands form a critical boundary between land and water. In Hawke’s Bay we have examples of many types of wetlands. The types of plants and animals found in wetlands vary depending on whether it is coastal or freshwater, how much water flows in and out, how long it stays there, how deep the water is, how warm it gets and what nutrients and sediment are in it.
Wetlands are important because they:
Volunteers - It’s exciting that in Hawke’s Bay, many hundreds of people care about wetlands and volunteer to help dig, plant and weed wetlands. We could not restore these ecological areas without their valued help! Many people continue to monitor changes in their wetland projects, and form permanent care groups, such as at Whangawehi at Māhia.
The Regional Council has an important monitoring and research role. We undertake State of the Environment wetland monitoring to understand the state of wetlands across the region. We are collecting ecological information to better understand the flora and fauna, nutrient status and hydrology of these areas.
The Regional Council has enhancement and maintenance programmes for wetlands for which we have responsibility at Tūtira, Pekapeka, Taipo, and Waitangi. We also work with landowners through our Ecosystem Prioritisation programme to enhance biodiversity in prioritised wetlands on private land.
There is more information on types of wetlands and restoration on the National Wetland Trust of NZ and Science Learning Hub pages.
DairyNZ and NIWA have published Constructed Wetland Practitioner Guidelines. You can find a copy here: wetland_practitioner_guide_web_may_2022.pdf (dairynz.co.nz)
Napier City Council has plans to improve Ahuriri Estuary, its surrounds, public use and the quality of stormwater entering the estuary environment from the city.
Napier City Council stormwater system
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