Lees Valley mānuka swamp project gets funding

At its last meeting before the March 25 lockdown, the Waimakariri Water Zone Committee allocated $25,000 of Immediate Steps biodiversity funds to support protection of a red tussock swamp wetland at Okuku Downs in the Lees Valley hill country.

Zone committee chair Michael Blackwell said the project, in association with the landowner, rated well in terms of protecting a wetland with high ecological values - a priority for the zone committee.

“It’s great to see this sort of project getting underway,” Blackwell said.

“It’s no secret that I’m a wetland man. I’d like to see Waimakariri sprout wetlands all through its network of creeks, streams and drainage systems to help filter run-off before it gets into waterways.

“This is a high-value project protecting 48 hectares of relatively intact ecosystems including a red tussock wetland, adjacent mānuka hill slope and a section of Okuku Downs Stream,” he said.

Protecting the property from deer

Cattle are run on the property, which has a particular problem with feral deer. A large proportion of the funding will therefore be allocated to stock-proof deer fencing.

“The deer fence will effectively deal with some of the major threats to these ecosystems,” Blackwell said.

“It will also allow the vegetation to recover to its best possible potential. I look forward to seeing the results.”

The wetland has intact hydrology and is in relatively good condition despite recent cattle access. The hill slope has been burnt in the past but is now regenerating, dominated by mānuka.

Okuku Downs Stream has retained its natural meander and cobble bottom. The total project cost is $59,000 including landowner contribution.

Zone fund allocation

The Waimakariri Water Zone Committee has $104,500 per year to allocate to projects aiming to protect and restore biodiversity in the zone.

Unallocated in the fund is $51,500 for the 2019/20 financial year.

Information on how to apply for Immediate Steps funding.