Wetlands mapping - what's the story?

In May 2019 we released an updated map layer showing where wetlands may exist in Canterbury. For some, this has caused discussion – and, in some cases, concern – about what this new information means for landowners.

We know that wetlands are important to everyone in the region, and this updated layer is part of a process that reflects the need for meaningful partnerships between Environment Canterbury and landowners with identified wetlands on their property.

We aim to continue to improve wetland protection, maintenance and enhancement in the region, and the best way to do that is to work in partnership with landowners to protect natural values on their land.

This page aims to provide clear information on:

If your question or concern is not answered by the FAQs below, or you just want more detail, please get in touch via 0800 324 636 or ecinfo@ecan.govt.nz

How to find a wetland on your property using the map

The information relating to potential wetlands is on the Canterbury Maps wetland layer. The easiest way to find out if you have a wetland on your property is to use the search bar in the top right corner, as follows:

  1. Type in your full address or choose from the suggested addresses.
  2. Zoom into your property by scrolling with your mouse or using the zoom buttons on the left.
  3. Click on the wetland (blue areas) to view aerial/ground survey information.

Frequently asked questions

Where has this wetlands information come from? 

Wetlands information has always been available on Canterbury Maps; this is simply an update of that information. This does not change your – or our – responsibilities related to wetlands.

How are wetlands identified on the map? 

We use a combination of aerial imagery and on-the-ground observations to identify where wetlands may exist, so this is the best information we have about actual and potential wetlands.

Our updated wetlands layer is useful in helping to determine the presence of a wetland, but a detailed ground-survey is the best way to confirm the location/extent/presence/values of a wetland.

You will see on the map that we have distinguished between ‘ground survey’ and ‘aerial survey’ wetlands:

  • “Ground survey” wetlands have been field inspected and mapped/described in some detail. An assessment of ecological significance against Canterbury Regional Policy Statement criteria is also provided for most ground surveyed wetlands. Most of the mapped wetlands are in the ‘aerial survey’ category.
  • “Aerial survey” wetlands have been mapped by delineating the outline of known and likely/potential wetland habitats from the latest high-resolution aerial imagery available at the time of mapping. Characteristic vegetation types, colours, patterns, presence of visible water were used to identify wetlands on aerial photos; with hydrological and topographical information also considered.
What is the review process if the map showing a wetland on my property is wrong? 

If you feel that we have made an error and your property does not have a wetland, we are very happy to look into that for you. 

Part of our review may involve a ground-survey visit by one of our ecologists and we will work with you to get this organised at our cost.

Equally, if you require clarification due to a consent process, we are also happy to visit. We want to work with you – we see this as the beginning of a conversation.

You can choose to employ your own ecologist to do this work for you, but this will be at your own cost.

Call us on 0800 324 636 or email us at ecinfo@ecan.govt.nz. Explain the nature of your enquiry and your contact details will be passed on to the correct team. We will contact you within 2 days to discuss your concerns.

Download the mapping process (PDF File, 443.96KB)

Wetland mapping review process

Will the process of ground-surveying cost me anything?

No. We will come to your property at no cost to you so that we can check our information and discuss the next steps. If there is no wetland identified, it will be removed from the map.

Does this mean ECan can go on my land? 

If you want us to ground-survey the wetland on your property, we will need to come onto your land. This will be at your invitation - and again, at no cost to you. However, you can employ your own ecologist to do the ground survey, but it will be at your own cost.

What happens if it is established that I DO have a wetland? Does this mean I can’t do anything on my farm? 

Whether rules apply to the wetland will depend on whether it meets criteria under the Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP). most rules within the LWRP contain some form of separation distance or exclusion to wetlands. Some examples of these rules are:

  1. vegetation clearance adjacent to wetland boundaries
  2. earthworks adjacent to wetland boundaries
  3. burning within the Hill and High Country
  4. stock exclusion
  5. wetland reduction (including vegetation clearance)
  6. most of our discharge rules contain a separation distance

If it does meet those criteria, then certain rules will apply which may mean that you need to get a consent to carry out some activities that might affect that wetland.

Importantly, a wetland is not an immediate ‘stop signal’ – it’s the gateway to a planning process that will need to be worked through.

If the wetland has been confirmed as meeting the criteria in the LWRP, the next steps depend on the situation:

  1. If you do not intend to do any works that might impact the wetland, and the farm does not have nor need a Farm Environment Plan (FEP) (if you do have/need an FEP, see next FAQ), then there is no need to do anything.
  2. If you are considering works that might impact on a wetland, then a consent may be needed. What conditions are put on that consent will vary depending on the type and significance of the wetland and the activity you want to undertake. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you can't do that activity – however, there may be restrictions around some aspects of it.
If you would like advice on how to protect and enhance your wetland, we can help with that and may even be able to contribute towards the cost of some of that work.

In all situations, if you have any questions or concerns, contact us – we are here to answer your questions and to help you to navigate the process.

Download the consent process map (PDF File, 1.29MB)

Wetland consent process diagram

What happens if it is established that I DO have a wetland and I have an FEP?

If the wetland has been confirmed as meeting the criteria in the LWRP, and your farm has or needs an FEP, the next steps depend on the situation:

  1. If you do not intend to do any works that might impact the wetland, information on the wetland still needs to be included in the FEP. This should cover how the impact of the farming activity on the wetland will be managed in line with good management practices. Worth noting – if at your first FEP audit you have not identified the presence of the wetland in advance, you will fail the audit.
  2. If you are considering works that might impact on a wetland, then a consent may be needed. What conditions are put on that consent will vary depending on the type and significance of the wetland, and the activity you want to undertake. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you can't do that activity – however, there may be restrictions around some aspects of it.

If you would like advice on how to protect and enhance your wetland, we can help with that and may even be able to contribute towards the cost of some of that work. In all situations, if you have any questions or concerns, contact us – we are here to answer your questions and to help you to navigate the process.

More detail on FEPs.

Where can I find advice and information about funding assistance?

The following are potential sources of funding

  • Immediate Steps funding is available for the protection and enhancement of wetlands. More information available here
  • QEII National Trust is a useful source of information on protecting wetlands on private land – details here.
  • District councils and Department of Conservation (DoC) – both can register covenants, and some district councils have grants available. Contact your local council for information.
  • Ngā Whenua Rāhui – This funding programme exists to protect the natural integrity of Māori land and preserve mātauranga Māori.
  • Wetland Action Fund, CBS fund and fish habitat – These sources of funding can be discussed with one of our biodiversity advisory officers.
What happens if it is established that I do NOT have a wetland?

If no wetland is identified on your property and it has been incorrectly mapped, it will be removed from the map.

I have a wetland that has not been picked up by the mapping; what does that mean?

Because we use a combination of aerial imagery and on-the-ground observations to identify where wetlands may exist, the updated map is the best information we have about actual and potential wetlands.

The data may need to be further refined by a ground-survey. Again, if you would like to discuss the presence – or absence – of a wetland on your land, call us to discuss and to arrange a site visit.

Why are wetlands important?

Canterbury’s wetlands are rich in biodiversity values and provide habitats for many species of plants and animals. They also play an important role in nutrient and sediment filtering, water quality, and flood control, so it is essential that we protect them. Among other things, they: 

  • work like kidneys by filtering out sediment and nutrients, improving water quality;
  • can help to mitigate floods;
  • support many species of plants and animals that are found nowhere else;
  • can provide or improve amenity values, such as game bird hunting opportunities or landscape value;
  • can add value to properties, and are assets to landowners; and
  • are of great cultural and spiritual significance to Maori, providing food (eg, wildfowl, tuna (eels) and other freshwater fish) and offering places to grow taro and harvest harakeke (flax) and other materials for medicine, food, building and crafts.

Since European settlement in Canterbury, we have lost over 90% of the region’s previously extensive freshwater natural wetlands and about half of our coastal wetlands. Reasons for this loss are a combination of physical and ecological modifications that have been made to meet human needs for urban and rural land use and recreation.

Mapping these wetlands helps us to paint a picture of where our remaining wetlands are so that we can all work towards protecting them.

Landowners have a stewardship role related to the environment, and even without the map, that responsibility doesn’t change.

We also know that many farmers already use best practice to manage the values of wetlands on their farm as part of their Farm Environment Plan  and within their overall farm planning and management.

How do we define wetlands?
‘Wetland’ is the collective term for the wet margins of streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, lagoons, estuaries, bogs and swamps. It’s important to note that some wetlands are not always wet!

The RMA defines a wetland as “permanently or intermittently wet areas, shallow water, and land water margins that support a natural ecosystem of plants and animals that are adapted to wet conditions”.

The Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) then provides a definition of wetland for the purpose of our rules:

  1. wetlands which are part of river, stream and lake beds;
  2. natural ponds, swamps, marshes, fens, bogs, seeps, brackish areas, mountain wetlands, and other naturally wet areas that support an indigenous ecosystem of plants and animals specifically adapted to living in wet conditions, and provide a habitat for wildlife;
  3. coastal wetlands above mean high water springs; but excludes: a. wet pasture or where water temporarily ponds after rainfall; b. artificial wetlands used for wastewater or stormwater treatment except where they are listed in Sections 6 to 15 of this Plan; c. artificial farm dams, drainage canals and detention dams; and d. reservoirs for firefighting, domestic or community water supply.

This does not mean that areas which meet the RMA definition but not the LWRP definition are not wetlands. It simply means that we do not actively manage them under the rules in the LWRP.

For example, areas that meet the wet pasture exclusion are still technically wetlands however, for the purposes of the LWRP, they are excluded from some of our rules.

How can I get help or more information? 

If you are concerned about any aspect of this wetland information, including the way it might relate to your property, please get in touch to start the conversation; we want to work with landowners to ensure our information is correct and to figure out your next steps.

Call us on 0800 324 636 or email us at ecinfo@ecan.govt.nz. Explain the nature of your enquiry and your contact details will be passed on to the correct team.

If possible, please have your property details (address, legal description if available) and the wetland ID number (this is on the map when you click on the wetland). We will then contact you within 2 days to discuss your concerns. Find a wetland on your property.

Find out more

Related links about the layer:

Canterbury wetland news stories: 

Other useful wetlands resources: