Wetland restoration gets a boost
20 April, 2023
Scargill Motunau Reserve will soon be home to Hurunui District’s largest wetland restoration project, and a generous private donation will significantly help its cause.
Currently penned ‘The Birdsong Project,’ this major ecological restoration has scope to eventually restore more than five hectares of land which included 1.7 kilometres of stream wetland, to native vegetation and also return adjacent flat areas to a native forest.
Hurunui District Council’s (HDC) Water and Land Coordinator Rima Herber said the name of the restoration and the total wetland area will be subject to the community’s wishes, and re-creating a native forest to the site will be a multi-generational effort.
“If the clock was wound back a few hundred years, there was a podocarp forest here (totora, matai, kahikatea).”
A philanthropic fund of $100,000 in the Project’s back pocket means planting, fencing and administrative duties can be significantly fast tracked.
“This wetland will create an environment rich in native bird, plant, insect, fish and freshwater species,” said Herber, who is particularly excited about re-creating what would have existed many years ago.
The Reserve already has extensive exotic plantings of conifers, redwoods, deciduous trees and a large oak forest.
Wetland planting will begin this winter, with Environment Canterbury donating 7000 natives, mainly three varieties of carex.
The initial focus area will be the area closest to the sports grounds and hall, and further developments will happen as the community is consulted.
It will be a busy winter for planting, fencing, rabbit control and administration, with the fund providing the ability to employ people for some of these roles.
Herber said on average the goal is to establish about 4000 plants each year, with eco-sourced plants (following current scientifically-backed best-practice) from local nurseries, including the newly established nursery at Hurunui College.
Involving local schools and community groups to plant and maintain the wetland will be a key component.
“Although this is a Council Reserve, we need the community to know that this is their project, designed to accommodate their wishes and priorities.”
The Birdsong Project will need more funding in the project to achieve its full potential, which will be applied for through various funding avenues in future years.
“There are locals who are keen to help, and that is wonderful, but much of the hard work will be done by contractors because we are in the fortunate position to have some funds available.”
Local ecologist, Sue McGaw, will be the ecological lead on the project.
Jo Loe, secretary of Scargill Motunau Recreation Reserve Committee, will be instrumental in forming a group of locals to help run The Birdsong Project.
The Reserve is currently home to a sports pavilion, golf course, tennis and squash courts, a bowling green, a cricket field, a walkway and six freedom camping sites.
There is also a 52-hectare working farm which is used to graze breeding ewes, meaning native plants like tussocks are still present, and there are very few weed issues.
The Committee pays clubs affiliated with the Reserve to run the farm, which doubles up as a good income stream and the ability to be mostly self-sufficient.
“We need to maintain a good balance between farmland and the restoration project, as the working farm means less demand on the rate payer to operate the Reserve’s facilities,” said Loe.
Willows have been removed from much of the Reserve’s stream, so the wetland has a part to play in enhancing the waterway.
“We have a responsibility to look after this Reserve, to honour the efforts of those before us.”
There are also plans for a picnic and swimming area.
Tapping into some local community energy and interest will be important, and while voluntary help will be welcomed, Loe recognises that people only have so much time and energy available.
“Which is why this generous donation is so welcomed by this community.”
Mayor Marie Black says the wetland will be a special site to add to the District’s list, another area where locals and visitors can make a point of stopping off to appreciate what Hurunui naturally has to offer.
“Having the native wetland restored in the heart of the District will enhance this community space, and offer further opportunity for enjoyment and learning,” said Mayor Black.
- Wetland restoration supports the government’s commitments and objectives under the Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy, the Emissions Reduction Plan and the National Adaptation Plan, as well as HDC’s obligations under the International RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands.
Benefits of wetlands (from RAMSAR Wetlands)
-Revive biodiversity. Most of NZ’s wetlands have been drained, there are very few well-functioning wetlands in the Hurunui, and even fewer where the public has access.
-Replenish and filter water supply. We will be getting base-line water quality data so that we will be able to monitor improvements in water quality.
-Store carbon. The wetland itself and the forests to be planted will be carbon-sinks.
-Blunt the impact of storms and floods.
-Boost tourism. This Reserve deserves to be visited more by locals and tourists alike.
-Enhance well-being. Both in the people who visit the wetland as well as those directly involved in the restoration.
-Improved livelihoods. Mahinga kai (resources used by Māori, including food such as tuna, and flax) could be collected from this area once restored. We will be providing employment for locals.