Fish & Game leads community effort to save threatened Marlborough wetland

  • 1/02/2016

Marlborough’s largest surviving wetland is being restored through the efforts of hunters, an international winemaker, Fish & Game, DoC and conservation minded community volunteers.

Para Wetland Billboard Image 1And to mark the 2016 World Wetland Day this week (February 2), dozens of volunteers are turning up on Thursday and Friday to continue restoring the Para Wetland.

The Para Wetland sits at the gateway to Marlborough on the road between the Picton ferry and Blenheim, visible to hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. The site is important because it is the largest such area left in Marlborough, which has now lost 97% of its original lowland freshwater wetlands.

Over the years, the Para had become choked with willow trees, reducing its value to bird and fish life. Fish & Game recognised the need to reverse the decline and has been instrumental in organising the Para wetland restoration project and getting funding for the necessary work.

Fish & Game’s Marlborough field officer Vaughan Lynn admits it has been a huge job.

“The first task was to kill the willow trees which were literally choking the Para wetland to death by restricting water flow and eliminating prime waterfowl environment."

Mr Lynn says that while people were initially taken aback by the sight of dead willow trees in the Para wetland, they now appreciate why it was necessary to kill them.

“We are now getting a lot more positive feedback from the public as the willows fall and decay, opening up more areas of native regeneration,” Mr Lynn says.

“That has provided an immediate benefit to bird and fish life”.

The international wine firm Pernod Ricard Winemakers is throwing its support behind the restoration effort. The company has teamed up with Conservation Volunteers New Zealand and donated time and effort to instigate corporate working days, and 40 of their staff will be at this week’s Para work days.

Pernod Ricard spokesman Tony Robb says the company recognises the value of wetlands such as Para.

“Pernod Ricard is committed to Marlborough and our staff live and work here. Preserving the environment is important to us and we recognise the value of the Para restoration,” Mr Robb says.

“We have committed money and staff time to what we see as a worthy environmental project which will benefit the whole community”, Mr Robb says.

The Department of Conservation, Community Environment Fund, Marlborough District Council and others have also helped with the restoration of the Para wetlands.

However, Nelson-Marlborough Fish & Game manager Rhys Barrier says the bulk of the project has been funded by game bird hunters through Fish & Game and the Game Bird Habitat Trust.

“Every game bird licence sold has a game bird habitat stamp on it and two dollars from every licence goes toward restoring wetlands around the country. It is a great example of hunters achieving conservation benefits for everyone,” says Mr Barrier.

Vaughan Lynn says the work days have also enjoyed the support of Outward Bound and other conservation-minded volunteers.

“It may seem a bit funny that we are celebrating World Wetlands Day this week by getting our hands dirty and pulling weeds but that’s what people committed to this project want to do.”

And he admits there is still a lot of work left before the Para wetland is restored.

“We have come a long way by clearing the willows, creating new ponds and opening channels and we have now started large scale re-vegetation plantings. Volunteers have planted around three and a half thousand native plants and the results of that work are becoming more visible.”

“The thousands of tourists getting on and off the ferry are now going to see something wonderful when they drive past. It will be Marlborough’s wetland jewel,” Mr Lynn says.

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