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Reversing the trend of wetland habitat loss at Waitangi

Creating the new wetland at Waitangi Regional Park

A new wetland is being created at Waitangi Regional Park to provide another haven for fish and birdlife.  It is also aimed to increase the amount of habitat in an important whitebait spawning area.

The new 15 hectare wetland is next to the 6 hectare Horseshoe Wetland created in the regional park by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council in 2009. 

The photo below shows the site of the new wetland - green lines are islands, red the deepest part of the wetland.

A partnership approach is funding the construction of the wetland in the flood plain of the Tūtaekurī and Ngaruroro River near the coast at Awatoto.  The project partners are Te Wai Mauri Trust (which has obtained Te Wai Māori funding), Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Inc, Napier Port and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council which is managing the project. 

Te Kaha Hawaikirangi of Te Wai Mauri Trust says that improving mahinga kai (traditional food gathering sites) habitat for species such as eel, flounder and whitebait is one of the key outcomes of the project.  The wetland will also provide a home for bittern (matuku hūrepo) which are endangered wetland birds, plus other wading birds. The Waitangi estuary and three rivers create one of the most important ecosystems in Hawke’s Bay and the area is considered a biodiversity hot spot.

“As the partnership between all the organisations involved is strong, we’ve been able to bring this project together quickly to help restore our environment.  We’ve lost 98% of the wetlands in Hawke’s Bay and this is another step to reverse the trend of habitat loss,” says Mr Hawaikirangi.

Planning for this wetland has been over 15 years.  Earthworks started in mid-January with a dawn karakia led by Ngati Kahungunu representatives. 

Leading experts in wetland habitat construction and fish passage have collaborated to design the outlet between the wetland and the Tūtaekurī, which forms a series of pools and swales to give fish a chance to rest. 

The new wetland is being constructed by Burgiss Contracting who are building a ‘bund’ or shallow stopbank to encircle a low-lying area of land which will be permanently flooded. Additional material will be used to create three islands for wildlife habitat and secure bird nesting. 

“The contractors are doing a fantastic job.  They have strong experience in the mining industry and are enjoying this opportunity to create something with environmental benefits that will be a great asset to Hawke’s Bay,” says Antony Rewcastle, HBRC’s project manager.

“There has been amazing support and enthusiasm from sponsors and project partners.  Planting around the edges of the new wetland will be a key element and we’ll be holding community planting days in June/July where people can get involved, like they have with the nearby wetlands at Ātea a Rangi (the celestial compass) and our other enhancement sites.”

Aerial of new Waitangi wetland with areas marked

25 January 2019

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