The Arawai Kākāriki ('Green Waterway') Wetland Restoration Programme aims to enhance the ecological restoration of three of New Zealand's foremost wetland/freshwater sites, working in partnership with communities and promoting research into wetland restoration techniques.
The three sites in the programme are the Whangamarino wetland in Waikato, Ō Tū Wharekai (Ashburton basin and upper Rangitata River) in Canterbury, and Awarua/Waituna in Southland. $2.2million per annum was invested between 2007/08 and 2009/10. Funding was split between the three sites (approx. $500k per annum per site), research and development and communication
Arawai Kākāriki is focused on delivering outcomes for 10 national objectives, grouped into the themes of Biodiversity, Community and Learning. Key achievements of the programme over the past three years include:
- Comprehensive inventory of wetland flora and fauna, enabling management goals to be set and providing baseline information to measure success.
- Wetland mapping based on aerial photography to delineate areas of intact wetland habitat (priority for protection) and degraded wetland habitat (priority for restoration).
- Over 15,000 ha of weed control and weed surveillance across the three sites focusing on Spanish heath, Crack willow, Grey willow and Broom.
- 27 km of boundary fencing across the three sites to reduce stock damage to wetlands and 55 km of riparian fencing to reduce sediment and nutrient input
- 19,000 ha of annual deer surveillance with 16 deer culled.
- Major upgrade of the Whangamarino weir to restore minimum water levels.
- Establishment of hydrological (water level) monitoring at key lake and wetland sites.
- Working with regional councils on water quality management initiatives, such as monitoring the health of the Waituna Lagoon Ramsar site.
- Liaison with iwi on wetland values and initiation of cultural assessments such as the Ō Tū Wharekai State of the Takiwa report.
- Establishment of a community Advisory Group for Awarua-Waituna (AWAG) that promotes sustainable land use and implements riparian management projects.
- Installing 6 new recreation facilities for public, including wetland viewing shelters, boat ramps, walking tracks, and Didymo cleaning stations.
- Promotion of wetland values to local community and the general public through >30 organised events.
- Publication of online and postal newsletters to keep community up to date of progress
- Research on the ecology of wetland birds (e.g. Australasian Bittern, Wrybill) and the population dynamics of mammalian predators that threaten them.
- Assessment of the vulnerability of Waituna Lagoon to changing land use (increased nutrients) and artificial lagoon opening events.
- Development and promulgation of methods to monitor wetland birds, mammalian predators, and wetland vegetation.
- Collaboration with universities and crown research institutes.
- Promulgation of research findings with end-users, including the Arawai Kākāriki sponsored session at the 2009 New Zealand Freshwater Science Conference and 2010 National Wetlands Symposium.
Across the sites, and at a national level, the programme is performing well against the national objectives. This is largely due to the development and implementation of a national strategic planning framework, which guides the allocation of resources to the most high priority tasks. This coordination has also increased the national profile of wetlands in the community and with other agencies.
The Arawai Kākāriki Restoration Programme is contributing to the department’s Natural Heritage Management Systems (NHMS), and will ultimately support the restoration of wetland ecosystems elsewhere on public conservation land.
The priorities for the programme over the next 2-3 years are to:
- Continue to implement on-ground actions to protect and restore Whangamarino wetland, Ō Tū Wharekai and Awarua-Waituna as guided by the national objectives of the Arawai Kākāriki programme.
- Transition from an inventory phase of data collection to targeted monitoring and reporting on the effectiveness of management actions.
- Disseminate new tools for management and monitoring for use by government agencies and non-government groups.
- Share research findings with other wetland managers.
- Continue to build collaborative partnerships with community, iwi and stakeholders.
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