What is now our wetlands area at Gladstone Vineyard was previously boggy paddock – used occasionally for grazing (though not particularly suited to it) with lots of cutty grass and swamp pasture.
The area was crying out to be converted to wetlands, and we knew the benefits creating such a habitat could bring. As well as supporting a greater diversity of native birds, fish, invertebrates and plants, wetlands are vitally important to the ecosystem – improving water quality and reducing flood risks. They are also essential in managing climate change. As living systems that support dense plant life, wetlands capture and store carbon indefinitely.
So, in 2005, with the help of Ducks Unlimited, we called in a digger and dug out a pond – tapping into water from the water table. The base was dug out, and the dirt piled round the outside to give the walkway and to create the islands.
From there we sprayed bramble and got planting – carex, hebes, pittosporum, kowhai – all varieties we continue to plant. Every year since then we've faced spring growth, with the weeds muscling in over and above the plantings. Gradually though, the plants (and in particular the flaxes which seem to love it down there) are managing their way through.
We regularly plant, spray, weed, and plant some more – depending on the season. Some plants survive, some get choked by the grasses or dry in the summer weather.
We've also had to do some repair work along the way to deal with flooding, and had the digger back in to flatten and rebuild some areas and get rid of weeds. But as time has passed the original shape is holding – with the plants and grasses (and weeds!) holding the bank.
In recent years, ducks, pukeko, kereru, tui, bellbirds, paradise ducks, frogs, koura, eels and weta have all made their home in our wetlands. And this spring we welcomed our first wetland ducklings, the offspring of Chocolate, a hand reared duckling from our 'loch' ducks who has decided to make the wetlands her home.
It is a work – and passion – in progress!