Wetlands the way to go


African-American civil rights leader Martin Luther King was quoted by Hawke's Bay Regional Councillor Ewan McGregor this week.

"I have a dream" he said.

A dream to turn the nation's farm dams into wetlands, to partly redress the drastic change wrought on the landscape by farming.

He said many farms had redundant dams. "Many farms now are fully reticulated with polythene pipe and might be based on a single dam," he said.

For dams needed by stock, he proposes a fenced off concrete jetty that enables stock into the water without disturbing soil.

"I took a photo of a dam over the weekend. We are having a classic dry summer but the water is of extremely good quality and if you compare it with others in the area that are unfenced, there is just no comparison, he said."

Fencing off stock helped the dam last a lot longer by preventing it from silting up - shallow dams dried out in droughts.

"If you have no stock and filtration of vegetation, your dam life is substantially (extended)," he said.

"If you have a dam that is part silted-up and you want to do this ecological restoration, then now is the time to get stuck in and clean it out. I suggest it will be okay for many many decades."

Transforming dams into wetlands is an idea many Hawke's Bay farmers have already followed, but Mr McGregor is hoping to kick off a wider movement. "I get my inspiration from the QEII National Trust. It was pushed by passionate people that had the vision and look what has happened now," he said.

"The trust has been a fabulous success. In Hawke's Bay alone, there are thousands of hectares of private land in covenant - fenced off from stock in perpetuity. If that's not a success story, I don't know what is."

He said it was a good opportunity for the private sector because his dream has vast potential. It also presented an opportunity for a major sponsor.

"It extends from North Cape to the Bluff. If 1000 farms did just one dam, think of the ecological contribution that would make," Mr McGregor said.

Major fencing would be needed but it would be a one-off exercise. "You plant a few trees in the margin and, in terms of the ecological restoration of the water, that really takes care of itself. Ducks bring in seed and raupo will get established," he said.

"If you have the motives right so people are really excited about it, they might do one dam every five years - not a big cost. After 20 years, they've done four dams. If just one farmer in every 10 did that in New Zealand it would be a substantial contribution to our ecology."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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