Waiau Trust marks 20 years of environmental stewardship in Southland

The Waiau Fisheries and Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Trust is reflecting upon 20 years of environmental conservation success across the Waiau catchment.

Waiau Trust PRImage: A natural wetland on Landcorp's Eweburn Station

The Trust began operating in 1997 as a partnership between the Waiau River community and Meridian Energy.

“The purpose of the Trust is to protect, enhance and maintain wetlands and waterways in the Waiau catchment for the benefit of fish, wildlife, landowners and the public and to improve access to these natural resources,” says Trust chairman Cam McCulloch.

The organisation’s latest annual report captures all that has been achieved over the last two decades

“To date, the Trust has established 180 habitat projects, enhancing a total of 2656 hectares of habitat. We have 12 access projects, which allow members of the public to enjoy the outcomes of the Trusts work. The Trust has also worked with 80 individual landowners and managers to assist them with protecting and enhancing the waterways on their property.”

Ecosystem restoration, through habitat enhancement is a complex and slow process, but there can often be immediate results.

“The regeneration of native vegetation takes decades, but the colonisation of created wetland habitats by wildlife can occur within a matter of months. We consistently observe growth in bird life at the habitats we’ve established.

Growth in sustainable fisheries takes longer, but is a key focus for the Trust,” says Mr McCulloch.
Meridian Energy’s CEO Mark Binns says the Trust’s headwaters to confluence approach has been a resounding success.

“The Trust was established to mitigate the effects of the Manapouri power station, which uses water from the Waiau River to generate electricity for New Zealand. The local community – through the Trust – has transformed wetlands and waterways, which will have lasting impacts on fisheries and wildlife in Southland,” says Mr Binns.

Looking to the future, the Trust will continue to prioritise the development of whitebait habitat at the mouth of the Waiau River and providing grants to landowners for fencing of stream and wetlands.

Whitebait habitat enhancement

Whitebait populations are in decline nationally, with a recent report by Massey University warning all five native whitebait species will become extinct by 2034 if action isn't taken immediately.

In the Waiau, reduced river flows, development of low lying land for agriculture, drainage of wetlands and modification of streams have dramatically reduced whitebait rearing habitats.

The Trust has established 30 hectares large, open water wetlands at the Waiau River mouth - Te Wae Wae Lagoon – for the purpose of whitebait habitat enhancement.

The work began in 1999 on a small, experimental scale, creating 6 ha of rearing habitat. This gave the Trust confidence to expand the scale of the project, which was done in three stages: Whitehead Suite (10 ha) in 2009, McCulloch Suite (10 ha) in 2012 and Inder wetland (10 ha) in 2015.

The Trust is now looking to expand its whitebait habitat enhancement work, with land at the west side of the Lower Waiau River identified as having potential for development.

Landowner habitat enhancement partnerships

The Trust provides grants to landowners, including private farmers and Landcorp, for fencing of stream and wetland habitat.

“It is estimated that New Zealand has lost 90 per cent of its wetlands. This is probably true for the lower Waiau catchment. The Te Anau Basin of the catchment however still has a number of wetlands on private farm land. Most have undergone varying degrees of development for agriculture, but fortuitously many still have some intact natural values. Those left are worth protecting and restoring,” says Mr McCulloch.

The Trust provides grant money for permanent fencing of wetlands and their riparian margins and permanent removal of grazing animals.

“The results of such simple enhancement activities can be spectacular, with recovery of native wetland vegetation and the return of wetland dependent bird species.”

The Trust currently has agreements in place with 72 landowners across the Waiau catchment.

Contact:

Philippa Norman
External Communications Specialist
021 707 854

Notes to editor:

The Waiau Fisheries and Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Trust’s projects include:

Ramparts Road wetlands

  • 44ha wetland, purchased by Trust in 2000
  • Located 9 km northeast of Manapouri and open to the public
  • Restoration efforts benefit native flora, waterfowl and fish; and improves water quality

Home Creek

  • 14ha wetland and stream reserve
  • Located 1km east of Manapouri township and open to public
  • Restoration efforts benefit native flora, waterfowl and fish; and improves water quality
  • Building 1.6km walking and biking track

Rakatu Wetlands

  • 278ha wetland, the Trust’s largest project, purchased by the Trust in 2000
  • Located 17km from Manapouri township, accessible from Southern Scenic Route, and open to public
  • 9km walking track and visitor facilities in place
  • Restoration efforts benefit waterfowl and fish

Te Wae Wae Lagoon/whitebait habitat

  • 30 ha of open water wetlands located eastern side of Waiau River mouth
  • Monitoring of inanga and eel colonisation and bird species using the habitats

Landowner partnerships

  • The Trust provides grants of up to 25% of cost for fencing of waterways and wetlands on private property