When I was a kid, behind our suburban housing development in New Jersey was what we kids called a swamp. A mucky area the developers left in place as too difficult to build on.

We kids claimed it as our domain, no adults allowed. We camped out there, pretending we were deep in the Amazon (there were poisonous snakes), and made midnight forays into the sleeping neighbourhood to write shaving cream messages on picture windows and set up towers of tin cans outside front doors. Such was danger in the fast lane for 10-year-olds at the time.

In retrospect, everyone must have known exactly who was out ‘camping’ the previous night, but somehow we escaped reprimand and handcuffs.

To our forebears, swamps were either such abandoned dead zones or retrievable land to be drained for economic purpose.

But nowadays we try to reclaim those remaining as wetlands, finally appreciating their ecological value.

So kudos to the Regional Council, working in partnership with The Conservation Company, landowners, Omakere School and the Department of Conservation to restore two wetlands – Amblethorn wetland and Orea swamp (hmmm!) – in Central Hawke’s Bay.

Omakere School tamariki help plant beneath Kahikatea on Amblethorn

HBRC’s biodiversity advisor Mark Mitchell says these wetlands were formed in basins and are tiny remnants of what once were extensive mosaics of swamp and alluvial forests that blanketed the area.  

“A feature of both areas are stands of kahikatea, including some fairly old trees. We are working with The Conservation Company to restore them and are seeing results already,” says Mitchell.

“A good example of this was discovering the New Zealand tadpole shrimp which has survived in the Orea wetland. This small, slightly weird looking creature is a throwback to ancient times 190 million years ago and is considered a living fossil. The species is continuing to decline nationally due to loss of habitat and is now listed as nationally endangered.”

Kay Griffiths, restoration ecologist from The Conservation Company, adds:

“Controlling willows and other weeds, planting natives, fencing areas off and controlling animal pests is hard work, but it’s immensely pleasing to see results already starting to show with natural regeneration starting to occur and the return of native birds and invertebrates. Recent surveys have also shown both areas to be foraging grounds for our native long tailed bat.”

Swamp, wetland, ecosystem, habitat, whatever … let’s save more of them!

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