What was the project about?
The Waituna lagoon and surrounding wetlands provide habitat for over 80 species of birds, including threatened species such as the Australian bittern. A loss of wetland and poor water quality due to high levels of sediment and nutrients threaten the survival of species, recreation and mahinga kai. Living Water was looking for practical interventions that could involve the local community and landowners, and utilise the surviving fragments of wetland and native bush to provide greater support for native biodiversity within the Waituna catchment. Riparian planting (planting up the margins along the banks of rivers and streams) between remnant wetlands was identified as a project that could deliver the desired social engagement and ecological outcomes.
What was the issue?
Wetlands and native forest provide an important habitat for native plants, invertebrates, fish, and birds. However, many wetlands in the Waituna catchment are remnant fragments, disconnected from other areas of native biodiversity. Native species require continuously linked ‘ecological corridors’ so they can move safely and efficiently to access food sources, and for breeding and life cycles. Reconnecting fragmented wetlands through riparian planting was identified as a way to recreate ecological corridors and enhance the biodiversity of the Waituna catchment.
How was the project undertaken?
Living Water partnered with enthusiastic landowners and the Waituna Landcare community group to undertake large scale planting of riparian margins between fragmented wetlands and patches of native forest. The Waituna Landcare group coordinated landowners, school children, and staff from DOC, Environment Southland and Fonterra to participate in planting days on several farms.
What was achieved?
Community members, including landowners, school children, and partnership staff have participated in several planting days. More than 20,000 plants have been planted on eight Fonterra farms to help build biodiversity corridors and intercept contaminants before they get into waterways. The benefits of riparian planting are significant and far-reaching. Riparian plantings can act as biodiversity corridors and provide habitat connection for many wetland species, including birds. The plantings provide habitat for insects which drop into the stream and become an important food source for fish, especially giant kōkopu. The plantings stabilise the stream banks, reducing erosion and the need for mechanical drain clearing. By involving the wider community in planting days, the engagement creates buy-in and ownership of any ongoing maintenance needed beyond the project timeframe.