The Rarangi Wetlands, comprising of 50 hectares nestled in the middle of our largest vineyard site - the Rarangi Vineyard, are home to one of the region’s largest wetlands. The wetlands are a regionally significant area, displaying the once extensive wetlands found on the Wairau Plains, containing a number of nationally and regionally threatened and rare plant species such as the Mazus novaezeelandiae.
Prior to Wither Hills purchasing the property in 2000 there had been significant degradation of this area as a result of the wetlands being significantly modified from their original condition. Large areas had been drained and converted for agricultural use and further land development had resulted in a reduction of water quality as well as the establishment of detrimental weed species. Also, the grazing of cattle on the now Rarangi Vineyard, prior to Wither Hills owning the property caused significant damage to young native plants and seedlings.
Since purchase Wither Hills has worked to enhance the wetlands by removing grazing animals, and protecting the diverse range of native plants, by not only managing aggressive weed species but by trying to restore the fragile environment which exists there. Very early in the project a consultant ecologist was employed and there has been a long term plan drawn up to direct resources towards achieving the best possible outcome for this unique ephemeral wetland. In July 2009 Wither Hills commenced a comprehensive two year programme in conjunction with Biodiversity Fund of New Zealand and the Marlborough District Council with the focus being to eliminate major weeds, plant native plants and carefully nurture the declared rare flora found at the site. Alongside this a long term plan is in development for the trapping of pests such as stoats and possums and to monitor the native fauna populations in the wetlands. Replanting of native flora will continue, to date over 4000 native seedlings have been planted by staff, and the weeding and maintenance of these plants is crucial to its ongoing rehabilitation. Also, annual Wither Hills planting days are held where all staff at Wither Hills get involved by planting native seedlings and weeding around existing seedlings.
An important step in the recognition of work undertaken at the wetlands over the past ten years, was winning the Habitat Enhancement Award at the Marlborough Environment Awards 2010/2011.
Wither Hills’ long term goal for the wetlands since the site was originally developed as a vineyard in 2001, has been to halt and reverse the gradual degradation of the wetland and restore the ecological processes. Progress has been made and seen with the significant regeneration of the undergrowth, extensive weed control, and planting of native species.