Freshwater Wetland Restoration

This page provides a quick guide to help you plan and restore your freshwater wetland.

With such a high percentage of the former extent of wetlands lost in Tasman District, there is an increasing interest in wetland restoration. This interest is most prevalent in the Moutere and Motueka Ecological Districts where over 95% of wetlands have been lost. In these Ecological Districts the total extent of wetlands has increased since 2000, particularly through requirements of rural-residential subdivision and community-led projects.

Steps to help you Plan and Restore your Wetland

Step 1: Gather Information 

Take a good look at what you have and how it sits in the landscape around it.

Draw a baseline sketch taking into consideration:

  • What is there now?
  • What was there originally?
  • What do you want it to look like?
  • Will it affect your neighbours upstream/downstream?
  • Do you need Resource Consent?

Contact Tasman District Council, the Department of Conservation and/or Fish & Game. They can give you advice to help guide you through the process. Council will be able to tell you whether you need resource consent and, in some cases, may provide funding assistance.

Step 2: Maintain Water Levels

Maintaining water levels is of utmost importance.

  • How does water flow into, around and out of the wetland?
  • Is the original, main source of water adequate or will you need to do some work to bring water back in? This could be as simple as blocking your farm drain.
  • Technical advice on water budgets and water control structures can be useful.
  • It is normal for water levels in a wetland to fluctuate. Trying to fix the level may increase weed invasion and change plant assemblages over time. You should maintain natural fluctuations wherever possible.

Step 3: Define Goals

Should the wetland restoration:

  • Improve wildlife within the area (eg rare native birds, game birds, native fish)
  • Improve wildlife downstream of the wetland (eg fish by improving flow)
  • Improve water quality in lakes or streams

Step 4: Write a Restoration Plan

Plans should take into account:

  • Wetland layout
  • Pre-existing features
  • Restoration area and sections
  • Water inflows and outflows
  • Planting zones
  • Plant mixes
  • Weed control
  • Islands for roosting (with no or short vegetation for waders)
  • Nesting islands (with taller vegetation for water fowl)
  • Location of bunds, ponds, maimai, hides and viewing platforms

Step 5: Plan your Development and Weed Control

  • Earthworks (ensure machinery is not carrying weeds)
  • Water control structures
  • Weed control plan
  • Fencing

Step 6: Create a Planting Plan

  • What plants do you want to use, how many, what species?
  • Where will you plant them? (map zones) Consider spacings and methods. Restoration Planting Lists provide some useful information
  • Staging, add some climax species later. Craete a manageable work programme. Start small and simple. Observe and learn.
  • Find where to get plants from (plants from local seed sources is best) Is there any funding available?

The “Go Wild” publication is a beautiful and inspiring guide to habitat restoration in Tasman and includes some information on wetlands.  This is available from the library or can be downloaded:

 Step 7: Site Preparation and Planting

  • Identify all weed infestations and develop a strategy (biosecurity officers from Council can provide helpful advice)
  • Control weeds – this may take several phases to control regrowth. Heavy infestations may need to be controlled a year or so ahead of planting
  • Plant according to the plan. Stake out plants to make sure you can find them when grasses grow.

Step 8: Maintenance and Monitoring

  • Keep checking and controlling invasive problem weeds
  • Release plants from competing grass and weeds
  • Control pest animal
  • Check fences
  • Take photos from set points

Further Information

For more detailed information about wetland restoration there is an excellent guide produced by Landcare Research:

This handbook brings together expertise from specialists and groups actively engaged in restoring wetlands throughout the country. It builds on regionally based restoration guides and provides a detailed, comprehensive ecosystem approach toward understanding, protecting and enhancing our remaining wetlands. It is targeted at those who plan to, and those who already are making a difference to improving wetlands, and is written in a way that can easily be understood and importantly, acted on. This book can be purchased from Manaaki Whenua Press.

For information about restoring saltmarsh wetlands: 

Some examples of restoration notes for wetlands in Tasman District: