September 18, 2008

Wetlands Protection Boosted By Purchase; Waituna, Toetoes Areas Now Linked

By THORNE, Dylan

THE Government has paid $1 million for 240ha of wetland and regenerating native forest in Waituna to ensure its protection as an important ecological area.

Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick said the land was a key addition to the Awarua/Waituna Wetland, as it links two internationally significant wetland blocks.

The $1 million block, bought last month by the Government- created Nature Heritage Fund, joins the Waituna Wetland Scientific Reserve with the large Toetoes Conservation Area, which form part of New Zealand's largest internationally recognised wetland.

Less than 10 percent of New Zealand's wetlands remain and they play an important role in flood control and water quality, as well as offering opportunities for recreation such as fishing, hunting and whitebaiting, bird watching and scenic strolling, Ms Chadwick said.

A third of New Zealand's freshwater fish lived in wetlands and many endangered plants were dependent on them.

"This area's ecosystem is a mosaic of different communities and it is imperative these outstanding natural qualities are protected for the future," she said.

"I see this as a substantial ecological investment in Southland which will protect threatened flora and fauna and allow the area to return and remain in its natural state." The Nature Heritage Fund provides financial assistance to public agencies and private individuals to purchase or covenant land with high conservation values. The area purchased will be managed by the Department of Conservation.

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