Wairarapa farmer nurtures marginal farmland into a wetland

  • Published Date 31 Mar 2021

Greater Wellington is backing a Carterton farmer's vision to regenerate marginal farmland into a flourishing wetland through environmental programmes that support native biodiversity and healthy waterways.

Wetlands work hard for our people, land and wildlife. Today, only two per cent of Greater Wellington's wetlands are estimated to remain, many of which are in a degraded state.

For the last three years, Clarence Stolte and his family have actively restored a wetland on their farm by fencing, trapping pest animals and native planting through Greater Wellington's Healthy Waterways Programme.

Clarence says his vision for the future is to restore the farm's wetland to its original state 200 years ago; full of bird life, full of all the natural wetland trees - and hopefully, the odd mudfish.

Through the Healthy Waterways Programme, Clarence received financial support to fence 1.5 hectares, plant over 1000 trees, and first-hand advice on maintaining the regenerating area.

"Someone once said to me that wetlands are like the kidneys of a farm - and I thought our farm could do with some kidneys," says Clarence.

"The area was always a bit of a wet area, pretty marginal in terms of farming and about half the year it’s absolutely sodden and the other half it's dried up. That's when we realised it has better value as a wetland than a bit of farmland."

The wetland is situated at the top of the farm and filters water from the neighbouring land before it enters the Stolte farm.

Clarence says his advice to other farmers who have marginal farmland that is too wet for majority of the year is to transform it into a wetland.

"Wetlands have got huge value in terms of ecology and it's huge value in terms of the water quality outcomes that we can have if we restore those wetlands and use them as kidneys for your farm," says Clarence.

Greater Wellington land management advisor, Petra Fransen, has been working alongside Clarence since the beginning and says the wetland was originally a bull paddock.

"Clarence and his family have always been keen to do their part for the environment, so it's been awesome to see the progress they've made. They've been really engaged in restoring the wetland the whole way through.

"A highlight for me was seeing their kids participate in mudfish monitoring, planting trees and finding bird nests - it's about more than just the environmental benefits, it's educational too," says Petra.

Clarence is also a key member in the restoration of the Waingawa Swamp a scheduled wetland and Queen Elizabeth II National Trust covenant in the Parkvale catchment.  

Chair of the Wairarapa Committee, Greater Wellington councillor Adrienne Staples says, "The Stolte family have achieved much to be proud of over a short period, this is a real testament to their commitment and hard work.

"They are a wonderful example of individuals practising te mana o te wai, which takes a holistic approach to managing waterways and prioritises the health and wellbeing of our freshwater," says Cr Staples.

Find out more about Greater Wellington’s Healthy Waterways Programme.

Listen to Clarence's full story.

Updated March 30, 2022 at 2:33 PM

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