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Wetlands still part of the big plan

Jamie Falloon in one of the areas of his farm that he intends to turn into a wetland. PHOTOS/GRACE PRIOR

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Masterton farmer Jamie Falloon is hoping to restore six wetland areas on his farm but is concerned about some regulations and costs the venture may entail.

Some of Falloon’s farm would have originally been wetland and in certain areas he’s looking to retire that land from grazing entirely and bring it back to its old and natural state.

He said the project was something he had been wanting to do for quite some time, but new government regulations gave him a bit more of a push to do it.

One of the areas of Jamie Falloon’s farm that he intends to turn into a wetland, with a QE2 covenant behind.

Walking through a shady bottom paddock on Falloon’s farm with a QE2 covenant running down the side, he showed me just where he’d like to put one of his wetlands.

The area was about 500m2 in total and it would cost upwards of $12,000 to restore the entire area, including fencing.

“When you look of those costs, there’s $10-12,000 that’s going to give me a bit of wetland area that I can be proud of, and that’s it. I’m not making any money from it.”

Falloon said it was possible to apply for funding to restore a wetland, either through QE2 if you were to turn it into a covenant, or Greater Wellington Regional Council’s biodiversity fund.

He said funding could generally cover half of the cost of the restoration project.

Part of the puzzle for Falloon was figuring out where to fence off and how much area to take in order to make the project worthwhile.

“It’s not going to make me any money, but it’s the right thing to do so people are getting on with it, the hard bit is getting the right advice of what to do where.”

He said a lot of his information and support came from QE2 or the biodiversity team at the regional council, but he and many others had hit some “confusing” roadblocks with the regional council’s interpretation of freshwater regulations.

Falloon said some of the confusing regulation would be discouraging farmers from converting areas into wetlands.

“If I make this whole area into a wetland, then it changes what I can do in the next paddock in terms of drainage,” Falloon said while pointing at the fence that would divide his wetland from
productive farmland.

The project is on Falloon’s horizon for next year, but first he’ll have to get resource consent from the regional council.
Regional council environmental regulation manager Shaun Andrewartha said the council supported people that wanted to restore or create a wetland.

“To help, Greater Wellington offers a pre-application service, free of charge, which aids people to work out if a consent is required or not and take them through the process.”

Falloon said there were some areas on the hills nearby that had water seepage areas or springs.

“It’s easy to find them if you go around in summer and just look for the areas that are still green.”

Falloon said in those areas there would either be a spring or some other source of water there. He said those areas were more likely to be historic wetlands.

He said the land where his wetland would go was dry land, but some historic maps would call it a wetland.

“The soil says the whole area is a wetland, but when you look at it – it clearly isn’t. It would have been a long, long time ago before any uplift.”

Falloon said there wasn’t much flood protection on the river that ran through the area he intended to turn into a wetland.

He said he would be nervous about where he dug, in case some of the area was already classed as a wetland, which would mean the regional council would have to assess the area for a resource consent.

“To extend the wetland may be harder because it’s hard to actually get a consent to do it.”

Falloon said a restoration resource consent wouldn’t cost him anything – but he did have to have a resource plan.

“Greater Wellington could say the plan is enough information, or they may say I need to provide more hydrological information”

He said in the case that he needed more hydrological information he’d have to hire an ecologist to make a plan.

Falloon said after that point, he could get to work.

“That’s basically the process of restoring a wetland.”

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