Wetland Frequently Asked Questions

This page answers the most frequently asked questions about wetlands.

About Wetlands

What is the big deal about wetlands?

Wetlands are important because they:

  • work like sponges to store water and maintain water flow during dry periods
  • work like kidneys by filtering out sediment and nutrients, improving water quality
  • can help to mitigate floods
  • support many species of plants and animals that are found nowhere else. Native fish, such as the rare giant kokopu, are nearly always only found in streams fed by wetlands. Fish abundance and diversity is almost always better in wetland-fed streams  
  • can provide or improve amenity such as game bird hunting or landscape value
  • can add value to properties and be assets to the landowner

About 95% of wetlands on private land have been lost in Tasman.  This makes the remaining wetlands very valuable and something special.

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What is a wetland?

Wetlands are defined in the Resource Management Act and the Tasman Resource Management Plan as being permanently or intermittently wet areas, shallow water and land-water margins that support a natural ecosystem of plants and animals that are adapted to wet conditions. A wetland becomes dry land where the plant species typical of terrestrial environments cover over 80% of the area. Vegetation is used as it is an indicator of the hydrology of the site over a long period. In its mapping, Council uses a list of wetland plants compiled by leading wetland ecologists and published by Landcare Research. 

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What is a ‘natural’ wetland?

Naturally occurring, in relation to wetlands, means not specifically created by someone as a wetland, and includes wetlands formed by natural processes of reversion and sedimentation.

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Why is it important for private landowners to be involved in wetland management?

Tasman District Council recognises private landowners are the day-to-day managers and stewards of important land and natural resources of Tasman. Council is obliged to ensure wetlands on private land are not removed or degraded, unless they are of low biodiversity value.  Council aims to support landowners and managers to ensure wetlands are retained and enhanced for future generations to enjoy and benefit from.

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Why is the Council required to protect wetlands?

Under the RMA, the Council has to ensure the protection of wetlands.  The Tasman Regional Policy Statement contains objectives and policies that outline how this will be achieved. The Tasman Resource Management Plan contains rules to implement these objectives and policies that control activities affecting wetlands such as damming, diverting and/or taking of water. This Plan also addresses effects of activities in waterbodies which are managed for the whole community. These rules apply even when the wetland is located on private land. This Statement and Plan have already been through extensive public consultation, with farming representatives playing an active role in shaping the outcome before it was enacted in 2001. Council also has obligations to identify and protect wetlands under agreements such as the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord. All other regions in the country are going through a similar process of wetland mapping.

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The Wetland Identification Process

What is the purpose of the mapping exercise?

Mapping will clarify to landowners and Council where the boundaries of wetlands lie.  It will offer clarity to landowners who are often not certain as to what is or is not a wetland, and will more precisely identify where the wetlands rules apply and don’t apply on the ground.  

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What if I have plans to develop the wetland area?

Land developments and stream diversions and dams that affect the hydrology of a wetland, or cause significant vegetation damage in a wetland, are a discretionary activity and require a resource consent. You are more likely to obtain consent for lower value wetlands, for example, those dominated by certain swarding ‘cutty grasses’.

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Can the wetland boundaries be more accurately defined?

Council aims to identify all wetlands on your property and map them accurately the first time, to provide clarity and certainty. But for some wetland types with forest or scrub canopy, such as pakihi, it can be difficult to identify all wetlands and to delineate the boundaries accurately from aerials. Where there are very gradual vegetation changes from wetland to dry land it is also difficult to confirm the boundaries from aerials. A site visit is the best way to discuss concerns and confirm wetland boundaries. The wetland regulations apply to all wetlands in the district regardless of whether they are presently mapped. As imagery with better resolution becomes available, there is a possibility of the odd additional wetland being identified. You will be informed, and are welcome to request a site visit if you have concerns.  If you have any unmapped boggy areas you plan to develop and would like to seek clarification on, you can also request a site visit.

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What should I do next?

You should decide if you would like to have a site visit. While the choice to have a site visit is a personal one and completely voluntary, there are considerable benefits:

  • It will result in greater accuracy and clarity about the true extent of each wetland site, and where the rules apply.  This provides certainty so you can develop the surrounding marginal land without being concerned about breaching regulations. Past site visits almost always resulted in a reduction in the size of the mapped wetlands, and some areas were found not to constitute a wetland. The only new wetlands found on site visits are a handful of forested wetlands.
  • If you intend to convert the wetland to another land use, then you may be able to use the information collected during the site visit in the resource consent application and not need to employ an ecologist to collect more information.
  • It is an opportunity to learn more about what constitutes a wetland and how to best manage them. 

To arrange a site visit, please contact Trevor James at 03 543 8562. If you would like independent advice, there are suggestions detailed below.

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What happens if I request a site visit?

A Council staff member and/or Council representative will visit with the purpose of answering any questions you may have, and will assess and photograph the wetland and map the boundaries. In some cases, there will be a need to do analysis of the botanical data before confirming the updated boundary.

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What happens after the site visit is completed?

After the site visit, Council will post landowners an updated map for each wetland site. You can also request an electronic copy to be emailed.

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How will the information be used?

The wetlands database will be updated and information will be included on the property Land Information Memorandum (LIM), to help prospective buyers be clear on where the wetland rules apply.  It will also serve as a guideline for Council to manage wetlands in the future. Presently Council is only undertaking a mapping and identification process, but there is a possibility that future legislation may require Council to identify “significant” wetlands in Tasman. The wetlands register is likely to be the basis for such identification if it is required in the future.

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If I am uncomfortable with this process, where can I go to get independent advice?

We recommend you get the best advice possible, including independent advice from a wetland ecologist or organisations like Landcare Trust, Fonterra and Federated Farmers. Council will be holding a meeting in your area just for owners of wetlands. Representatives from these organizations will be at that meeting to answer questions. Your local Councillor also intends to be there. Council is following a similar process to that which has already occurred in Marlborough, so you can also contact landowners in that region.

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What if I still don’t agree after the site visit?

If, after the site visit, it is confirmed by Council staff, or Council representatives, that you have a wetland or wetlands on your property and you don’t agree, you will still have an opportunity to submit in opposition to all or part of your wetlands’ inclusion on the LIM for your property. Your submission must be in the form of a report, commissioned by you, from a wetland ecologist that produces evidence about the vegetation, hydrology and soil conditions to support any amendment to the boundaries. Council will consider this information alongside its own information prior to making a final decision. Any amendment will be governed by definitions in the regional plan (see enclosed rules). 

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What if I don’t agree and don’t want a site visit?

Information about your wetland from a suitably-qualified ecologist is essential in order to debate boundaries of the wetland. If you disagree and don’t wish to have a site visit from Council, then the wetlands identified on your property, as shown on the enclosed map, will go onto the LIM for your property.  However, you will still have an opportunity to lodge a submission.

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Management of Wetlands

Does the land have to be fenced off?

Only if there is significant damage to the wetland such as obvious pugging or heavy grazing of wetland vegetation.  If you are a Fonterra supplier you will be required to exclude stock from wetland sites in order to comply with the Sustainable Dairying Water Accord. 

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Can I maintain ditches near wetlands?

Any drainage, diversion or damming must not alter the hydrology of the wetland. This means pre-existing drainage ditches on the wetland boundary may be maintained to the depth and breadth they have been in the past, but precludes enlarging them, or digging drainage ditches within the wetland. New drainage works near the wetland are permitted as long as they do not impact on the wetland. The zone of hydrological influence depends on the slope and soil porosity. Placing the spoil on the wetland side of the ditch can sometimes help hold water in the wetland, but spoil must not be dumped directly on the wetland.

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Can I control weeds in wetlands?

Control of weeds in wetlands is encouraged, provided there is no significant damage to native species. Please note that only certain herbicides can be used around wetlands and waterways, as many are highly toxic to freshwater life. Biosecurity and wetlands staff at Council are happy to provide advice.

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Have the rules changed?

Not since 2001. The wetlands rules allow for light grazing, taking of water for stock and other activities as long as they are minor and do not further reduce wetlands through drainage or vegetation removal. All that the mapping has done is identify where the rules apply or are likely to apply. We prefer to work in partnership with landowners to protect natural values on private land; regulation and enforcement is not the preferred option. Mapping of wetlands does nothing to change this, but will improve understanding and lead to better protection.

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Is there any support for wetland landowners and managers?

Council is able to support wetland owners by providing fencing materials to exclude stock, rates relief for wetlands with some form of official protection, and the coordination of volunteers for tasks such as planting and weed control.

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Will the public have access to wetlands on my property?

No.  Having a wetland identified on your property does not mean that the public can access it, unless you give them permission or there is legal access or public land providing access to it. On your land you control access by the public.

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Who can I contact for more information?

  • Councillor Stuart Bryant, Chair of the Council’s Environmental and Planning Committee      
    ph. 03 522 4357
    email: stuart.bryant@tasman.govt.nz
  • Federated Farmers

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