A Maniototo farming family is being credited with protecting the largest remaining scroll plain wetland in New Zealand.
John Falconer said yesterday he was "pleased as punch" to have had the foresight to safeguard the land for future generations.
The 45ha area of the Upper Taieri Scroll Plain wetland near Paerau in the Styx Basin was the largest of its type in New Zealand, and one of the world's most significant examples of this type of wetland area.
Falconer and his wife Mary, who have two children, bought the Loganburn Station from Meridian Energy about five years ago.
The wetland section of the station was problematic from a farming perspective, he said.
"I looked at that scroll plain and thought that piece of land is not really suitable for modern farming."
He approached Otago Fish & Game with the view the land would be preserved from a fishing and hunting perspective.
What followed was two years' work with the organisation which worked in the background to identify flora and fauna in the wetland before the transaction could take place, Falconer said.
Otago Fish & Game chief executive Ian Hadland said the organisation was "extremely proud" of the deal struck during lockdown, to protect the land as a publicly accessible Wildlife Management Reserve in perpetuity.
Hadland said the Falconers had wanted to stay out of the spotlight but the significance of the achievement had since dawned on them.
The acquisition would not have been possible without assistance from the Nature Heritage Foundation, he said.
His comments follow Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage's announcement of the reserve on Friday.
"This means the wetland, waterfowl hunting and trout fishery will be protected for present and future generations to enjoy."
The wetland was also highly valued by Ngāi Tahu for cultural and spiritual beliefs, including mahika kai (food gathering).
Sage said New Zealand had lost more than 90 per cent of its wetlands and, since 1990, 23 per cent of the country's remaining wetlands had been lost — 97 per cent of that loss had happened on private land.
"This purchase protects this special place," Sage said.
This area would be managed by the Otago Fish & Game Council to protect wildlife habitat and recreational use, and a public access lane would be created.