Wetland saved as planting brings new life to flaxlands

By Tessa Johnstone tessa.johnstone@age.co.nz

A little piece of South Wairarapa's heritage is now protected after an open space covenant was put in place at Wairio Station this week.

The Buddle Findlay Flaxland is a 9ha covenant on land farmed by Grant and Carina McGhie, a wetland with flax plants up to 3m tall and a rare swamp nettle found in just a few places in Wairarapa.

Wairarapa QEII National Trust Representative Trevor Thompson said the wetlands are a small patch of what's left of flax grown in the flax industry boom from the 1860s to 1930s.

"It left a long time ago, and what you're going to see are a couple of pieces of flax that were left from those days. It's a significant habitat that is almost all but gone. It doesn't look pretty at this point ... but from now on it's all upwards."

Over the last year, a team has planted 3000 flax plants seeded from the original flaxlands and 1000 cabbage trees, and pulled out willows and other pest plants.

The paddock surrounding the flaxlands, near to the Ruamahanga, floods three to four times a year, and stopbanks have been built to try to keep the water in to promote the growth of the wetlands.

Farmer Grant McGhie, who has worked on Wairio Station for more than 25 years, said the paddock left stock stranded during flood and he wanted to see the native flax and cabbage trees saved.

Mr McGhie said he has seen teal, paradise and mallard ducks in the wetlands and is hopeful as it grows it will draw in more wildlife. "It doesn't look like a lot at this stage but you can see the potential that's there."

The covenant was put in place by QEII National Trust in partnership with Landcorp, which supports 120 farms with areas containing covenants around the country - it is Landcorp's first in Wairarapa.

National manager Phil McKenzie said Landcorp was lucky to be working with farmers who do what they can to protect the environment they work in, and hope to leave something better behind.

"It creates a better area to work in, a better life ... the days of bulldozers and matches everywhere are behind us," he said.

"I think farmers always have been concerned about the environment they live in, they don't want to create scorched earth."

- Wairarapa Times-Age

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