The Stoltes working on transforming unusable land into ‘kidneys for the farm’. PHOTOS/GWRC VIDEO GRAB

A farming family have spent the past three years nurturing marginal farmland into a wetland.

Carterton farmer Clarence Stolte.

Carterton farmer Clarence Stolte and his family have been on a three-year mission to regenerate marginal farmland into a flourishing wetland through environmental programmes that support native biodiversity and healthy waterways.

Supported by Greater Wellington Regional Council through the Healthy Waterways Programme, the Stoltes received financial support to fence 1.5ha, plant more than 1000 trees, and first-hand advice on maintaining the regenerating area for the past three years.

Clarence Stolte said his vision was to restore the farm’s wetland to its original state 200 years ago – full of birdlife, full of all the natural wetland trees – and hopefully, the odd mudfish.

“Someone once said to me that wetlands are like the kidneys of a farm – and I thought our farm could do with some kidneys,” he said.

“The area was always a bit of a wet area, pretty marginal in terms of farming, and about half the year it’s absolutely sodden, and the other half it’s dried up.

“That’s when we realised it has better value as a wetland than a bit of farmland.”

The wetland is situated at the top of the farm and filters water from the neighbouring land before it enters the Stolte farm.

“Wetlands have got huge value in terms of ecology, and it’s huge value in terms of the water quality outcomes that we can have if we restore those wetlands and use them as kidneys for your farm,” Stolte said.

Regional council land management adviser Petra Fransen has been working alongside Stolte since the beginning and says the wetland was originally a bull paddock.

“Clarence and his family have always been keen to do their part for the environment, so it’s been awesome to see the progress they’ve made.

“They’ve been really engaged in restoring the wetland the whole way through.

“A highlight for me was seeing their kids participate in mudfish monitoring, planting trees, and finding bird nests – it’s about more than just the environmental benefits, it’s educational too,” Fransen said.

Stolte is also a key participant in the restoration of the Waingawa Swamp — a scheduled wetland and Queen Elizabeth II National Trust covenant in the Parkvale catchment.

The regional council’s Wairarapa committee chairwoman Adrienne Staples said the Stoltes had achieved much to be proud of over a short period.

“This is a real testament to their commitment and hard work.

“They are a wonderful example of individuals practising te mana o te wai, which takes a holistic approach to managing waterways and prioritises the health and well-being of our freshwater,” Staples said.

Stolte said his advice to other farmers who have marginal farmland too wet for most of the year was to transform it into a wetland.

The regional council estimated that only two per cent of its wetlands remained, many of which in a degraded state.



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