At least 200 people attended the two-yearly National Wetland Restoration Symposium this week.

It was held at the Napier War Memorial Conference Centre over Wednesday and Thursday.

Symposium chairman Steve Cave said there was high interest from a huge variety of individuals and organisations wanting to restore wetlands to be living, healthy spaces.

"It's exciting to host people here as we're doing some excellent work restoring wetlands in Hawke's Bay and can do more, so it will be great to learn some new ideas."


Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage opened the conference on Wednesday.

"Congratulations to the National Wetlands Trust on a successful event promoting the importance of wetlands.

"After a sorry history of wetlands loss in Hawke's Bay, I am pleased that several local initiatives are now under way to restore wetlands."

Sage also acknowledged many Hawke's Bay farmers creating wetlands on their own land.

Over time, the Department of Conservation added many thousands of hectares to the conservation estate along with having a number of programmes in place.

Chairman of the National Wetland Trust, Tony Roxburgh, said the theme of the symposium "living wetlands in living landscapes" recognised that wetlands could be solutions to challenges such as water quality and water conservation.

"They can make a substantial contribution to solving human impacts, by conserving and restoring wetlands and even replicating wetland systems."

Hawke's Bay Regional Council chairman Rex Graham welcomed the attendees to Hawke's Bay and thanked them for their passion and vision in the work that was being done.


"Wetlands are definitely on the agenda for Hawke's Bay with Pekapeka as a star wetland. Whakaki is the next project which we want to be as good as Pekapeka and we are working on it with the local trust and Nga Rahui Whenua," he said.

On Thursday, guest speaker Australian ecologist Matt Herring shared his thoughts on working with farmers and other corporations to restore wetlands on private land.

His presentation focused on the work rice farmers in the Murray-Darling Basin are doing to manage their flooding and cropping around the breeding cycle of Australasian bitterns, birds that also have habitats in Hawke's Bay wetlands.

His presentation included similar conservation initiatives that have proved successful in different farming systems in Sweden and California.

"There can be an over-simplified management approach to protecting nature, which takes humans out of the picture."

He said farm dams can easily be transformed into wetlands and provide healthier and more diverse habitats which attract a greater range of birds, plants, fish and insects. Wetlands that are constructed from scratch can soon function as well as a natural wetland.

"Consumers may pay an extra 10 cents a kilo for rice, but that equates to $1000 per hectare for rice farmers, which helps many of them fund their bittern conservation work."