Nestled amidst Southland's natural landscape are some of the most valuable ecosystems on earth – wetlands.

Read our factsheet on wetlands

There is a fantastic resource available for people interested in wetland protection. The Wetlands of Southland booklet not only details and describes the wetlands present around the region, it also provides practical information and advice for people wanting to develop and maintain wetlands. Download it from Department of Conservation's website or contact us for a free copy.

You can also download a trail guide for wetlands on the Southern Scenic Route from the National Wetland Trust of New Zealand.

For information and updates about the Waituna Lagoon, head over to our 'Whakamana te Waituna' website.

The issues

How many of us recognise the true value of what lies on our environmental doorstep? Over the past 150 years agricultural and urban development has resulted in the destruction of more than 90% of New Zealand's original wetlands – one of the highest losses recorded in the world.

Southland has retained just 11% of original wetland area, however many wetlands are under threat or not known about.

What is a wetland?

A wetland is a place where the ground is permanently or periodically wet and which supports a natural ecosystem of plants and animals.

Wetlands in Southland are widespread and diverse, occurring from the coast to the mountains, beside lakes and streams and the sea. There can also be wetland sequences, from swamp and peat land areas to shrub lands then forest. There are different types of wetlands including:

  • Created and restored wetlands: duck ponds, open water, reversion of wastelands
  • Swamps: include areas of open freshwater, pond margins, backwashes and backwaters, and valley floor areas
  • Peatlands and peat bogs: areas of peaty soil of low fertility
  • Coastal wetlands or salt marshes: estuarine and lagoon areas e.g. Awarua Bay, Te Waewae Lagoon, and the Waituna Lagoon
  • Alpine wetlands: include tarns in mountain areas

Wetlands support the highest proportion of endangered species of any terrestrial habitat on earth. They are an important "genetic reservoir" for certain species of plants and their contribution to biodiversity is essential to the healthy functioning of our environment.

Wetlands are very sensitive to changes in climate, water availability, disturbance and land use and they are extremely vulnerable to the effects of human activity.

What's so great about wetlands?

  • They act as a filter – recycling bad nutrients into good ones
  • They are part of the hydrological cycle – which means they are a godsend during flood events
  • They act as a buffer zone – protecting streams and waterways on your farm from erosion and nutrient loading
  • They're great to fish in, duck shoot off and have picnics around
  • Native species – birds, fish and plants – just love them

How can you help restore and protect wetlands?

At your place, do you have…

  • A boggy or swampy area of land?
  • A place where plants and animals have adapted to wet conditions?
  • An estuarine area, farm pond, old gravel pit or stock water reservoir?
  • A duck pond?
  • Or a wet, boggy area of wasteland you just don't know what to do with?

If you have a wetland on your property, there are a number of things you can do to help protect and restore this habitat:

  • Ensure they are fenced off so stock can't get in
  • Don't create drainage ditches near wetlands
  • Establish a management plan for pest plants and animals
  • Get involved with
  • your local Landcare group
  • Leave a legacy behind by legally protecting your wetland

Rules for wetlands

Using land within a wetland is a permitted activity, if the purpose is to maintain or enhance the wetland, or maintain an authorised structure, and certain conditions must be met.  Please see the Wetlands factsheet for more information.

Many rules in the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan require activities to have setbacks from natural wetlands.  Please look at the relevant rules in the Plan and see the Wetlands factsheet for the definition of ‘natural wetland’.   

If you are unsure whether your property has a wetland, please contact the Land Sustainability Team at Environment Southland on 0800 76 88 45.

Southland District Council's District Plan includes a schedule of significant wetland habitats, most of which are on public land and therefore protected by mechanisms such as DOC management. There is also a rule contained in the District Plan relating to indigenous vegetation clearance that may apply to certain wetlands.

The Invercargill City Council has a non-regulatory approach to wetlands, rivers and their margins in their District Plan. There are some rules in place relating to the control of land use activities that may affect wetlands.

Gore District Council has rules in place to control the effects of land use activities close to wetland areas of importance.

Wetlands factsheets

These factsheets are for use by landowners and include practical advice and assistance to encourage the maintenance, enhancement and restoration of wetlands in Southland. They have been put together by the Southland Wetlands Working Party.

Technical reports

Take the next step

Whether you've identified a wetland on your property, are keen to get into restoration existing wetlands in Southland, or would like more information on constructing your own wetland, contact one of you land sustainability officers today.

Page reviewed: 09 Jul 2018 2:53pm