The Tasman District Council is advised to amend its proposed rule on wetland drainage in a report released today by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Morgan Williams.
'Wetlands can be seen as boggy patches needing drainage to turn them into decent farmland or they may be recognised as valuable part of the environment, supporting a diverse range of plant and animal life' says Dr Williams.
Wetlands provide essential services such as flood control, nutrient recycling and water purification. They are a traditional taonga for tangata whenua and provide recreational opportunities for the wider community.
In the last 150 years New Zealand has lost about 85% of all wetland area, mostly to drainage for pasture, and modification continues. This loss is happening around the world with accelerated drainage, land reclamation, pollution and exploitation of wetland species.
'Wetlands are not simply patches of land that can be evaluated solely in agricultural production and economic terms. Their management is significant locally, nationally and internationally, and any rules about them must embrace a much wider context' said Dr Williams.
In November 2001, the Commissioner received complaints from Tasman residents about the proposed permitted activity rule, in the Tasman District Council's Proposed Tasman Resource Management Plan, for the diversion and discharge of water from wetlands. Boggy patch or ecological heritage? Valuing wetlands in Tasman reports on the Commissioner's investigation into the management of wetlands in the Tasman District.
'My report recommends that the Tasman District Council take a more precautionary approach to wetlands management, because of a lack of information about the significance of district's remaining wetlands. It also recommends action to ensure a better understanding of the wider values of wetlands across various sections of the community. There is a real opportunity for the Council to develop policies that facilitate the management of wetlands from a broader values base', said Dr Williams.
'My report also makes a recommendation to the Ministers for the Environment and Conservation to define national priorities for wetlands, and to provide guidance to local authorities on wetland management.'