High country farmers Joe and Philippa Cameron are entering new territory by creating a wetlands on their Otematata Station property, and sharing what they learn as they go.
The first field day in the Managing Wetlands as Farm Assets project was held last month at what will become Otematakau Wetlands, near the Otematata township.
The project is a three-year initiative being led by the New Zealand Landcare Trust. Its aim is to work with farmers and the wider community to provide advice and share knowledge about the range of benefits wetlands offer the farming system, the environment, and the wider community.
The intended wetlands for Otematata Station was a man-made wetlands area created from the tailings from the Otematata village, Mrs Cameron said.
“As you’re travelling into Otematata, you go past the garage and over the bridge, and on your left as you’re approaching Otematata there, there’s a whole lot of willows and raupo and it’s where the river comes down and these little ponds, that you cannot see because of the willows, they’re just sort of filled up,” Mrs Cameron said.
“There’s already some natives growing there .. but this is a chance for us to eradicate the willows and any other non-native species, I suppose. What they’re doing is suffocating all the natives.”
Geoff Webb, of Aoraki Tree and Scrub Control, shared his experience in weed and willow control with the group at the field day and demonstrated how to expose flesh on the willows and spray them.
“And what it does is it gets right into the willow and kills it standing up,” Mrs Cameron said.
“We don’t plan to cut them down, because when they fall they create habitat for lots of different wildlife. And then, eventually, once it’s all sort of tidied up, we hope that the raupo will come through and we’ll plant out some other species that will grow well in our area.”
The Camerons had been working on the concept since the beginning of the year, and on-site since the September 18 field day.
The whole process was new to them.
“ECan and Landcare Trust are holding our hands through this entire experience, which is great,” she said.
“That’s what’s so good about this, is that their initiative is to help us step by step. So they’re putting us in touch with the right people when it comes to the contractors to do the willows and they’re the ones also putting us in touch with the guys that know what species to plant.
“They’re also providing a bit of funding, because that’s something that of course not everyone has budgeted for, so that’s great.”
Funding had come from the Sustainable Farming Fund, as well as Environment Canterbury, the Landcare Trust, NZ Merino, DairyNZ, Fonterra and Overseer Ltd.
Fifteen practical wetland demonstration sites were being set up, including three constructed wetlands. The demonstration sites were being chosen to show a range of wetlands, across the different farming systems and varying ecological zones of Canterbury.
“The reason why we’re one of the first ones to go ahead is because it’s easily seen,” Mrs Cameron said.
“So over the years people will be able to see the changes as they’re driving into Otematata, and I think that it’s sort of a showcasing of different departments also coming together, which is something that doesn’t usually happen, so that is also cool.”
The Otematata Wetland Society had already provided a working example of a wetlands in the area.
“They’re a non-profit group of retired people who have just done a bloody good job.
“The Otematata Wetlands Sanctuary sort of goes down behind the boat harbour, around the back of the golf course and meets back up Loch Laird Rd. They’ve already done so much work in there, and they’re a wealth of knowledge, so I’ll be picking their brains too.”
When the Otematakau Wetland was more established, maybe in two to three years, the Camerons were considering putting in a walking track from the village, along the side of the river.
“So that the locals and the holiday makers will be able to access the river from a walking track. As opposed to jumping fences and going through farmland from the other side.”