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Drone reveals wetland's human history


Ideas flew at a meeting to introduce FuturEcology Ltd plans to restore Ruapaka Wetland, near Canvastown.

“I’ve never been involved with a wetland with so many human interactions,” said environmental engineer Alvin Bartley of FuturEcology which is overseeing the restoration project. “There are historic, cultural, environmental and biodiversity perspectives. I want to get your feel for what’s going on and opinions, towards forming a vision to formalise into a plan.”

Human influences included an urupā where Ngāti Kuia tūpuna are buried, a tramline embankment where from the 1880s native logs were hauled to Brownlee’s sawmill at nearby Blackball, historic drainage channels, and commercial forests on steep hillsides above.

Willows, old man’s beard, blackberry and convolvulus are abundant but native species including 15-year-old kōwhai and totara, Carex secta, harakeke, ngā kouka (cabbage-trees) and tōtara are also present. An encouraging discovery of kākahi/freshwater mussels indicates that native fish which transport their larvae, live here.

Alvin shared drone footage that revealed the wetland’s 700-hectare catchment and its human history.

All at the meeting agreed on a hybrid approach to willow control of targeted spraying by helicopter followed by drilling and filling with herbicide in sensitive areas. Where there is easy access, some could be mechanically removed.

“This is legacy stuff that we’ll be telling our children’s children about,” said Ngāti Kuia Kaitiaki Taio/Environmental Planner, Kristie Paki Paki, of the Project.

“There’re heaps of challenges but what an opportunity to bring in local farmers, iwi, and the community …. to attack this over a long period of time,” added Te Hoiere catchment care coordinator, Aubrey Tai.

Luke Thompson and Maria Carlson who farm alongside the wetland were keen to see the Project take off “while the dollars are available through Te Hoiere Project and there’s such strong support from Forest & Bird, iwi, Council, DOC and the community.”

Ngāti Kuia is leading this project in partnership with DOC, Marlborough District Council and landowners. Marlborough Roads will advise on stormwater management, whether herbicide sprays are used in the area and traffic control measures required.

Alvin Bartley of FuturEcology

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