Returning some areas to wetlands is essential
Fiona Smith, Chair, Regional Forum
Wetlands play an incredibly important function in the health of Southland’s freshwater, and the Southland Regional Forum will be recommending a more defined plan be put in place to re-establish, protect and enhance wetlands.
The Regional Forum is a community based group set up in 2019 to provide recommendations about how to meet community values and aspirations for freshwater by 2045. These recommendations are due to be delivered to Environment Southland’s council and Te Ao Marama board members by mid-2022.
The recommendations are currently being drafted into a report, and while there are some months to go before the report is finalised, improving and creating new wetlands will definitely be part of the recommendations.
Wetlands are so important – they act as a filter, trapping sediment and improving water quality; as a buffer on farms against erosion and protecting from nutrients which leach from the land into waterways; they reduce the impact of flooding; provide native habitats and recreational opportunities.
Over many generations in Southland our wetlands have been drained and effectively lost. Some farmers are now reintroducing these important environments back to their farms, and we want to find ways to encourage that – it’s for the good of our waterways.
Southlanders have identified a number of values that are important for freshwater – they want to be able to swim and play in it, fish, take kai from, as well as use it for other purposes, and enjoy being around it. Re-establishing wetlands is an important part of how we will go about restoring te mana o te wai (the wellbeing of the water) in Southland.
Southlanders are aware of the difference between the quality of our water now, and where it should be – Environment Southland and Te Ao Marama have been sharing that information since last year. We really must commit to large scale catchment interventions if we want our children and grandchildren to have healthy and resilient freshwater available to them in the future.
A strong economy can only exist and grow within a thriving and resilient environment. I’m looking forward to the future where an integrated, respectful approach to how we see water in our environment benefits the entire Southland community.