An insider’s guide to Auckland’s wetlands
A wetland, by definition, is anywhere water is the main factor. It could be coastal water, freshwater, or a mixture of the two. It will come as no surprise then, that New Zealand has an abundance of natural wetlands.
Auckland, with its position around the Hauraki Gulf and with oceans on both sides of the city, is no exception.
Such areas exist when the water level is barely below ground level, or even at the same level. While some people will think of them as stinky swamp areas, they actually have key roles to play for wildlife and nature in general.
They help to control floods, regulate carbon levels, and improve our water quality. Plus, they are home to roughly one-third of nationally threatened plants found in Auckland, according to the Auckland City Council.
Te Henga Wetland
The Wainamu Lake is comprised of a deep lake tucked behind the sand dunes of Bethells Beach, and not far beyond this lake your will find the Te Henga Wetland.
At 140 hectares, this wetland is one of the largest freshwater wetlands in Auckland. There are more than 300 species of plantlife on display here, as well as 45 bird species. It’s even the home of six species of native fish! You might see the precious bittern, spotless crake, the fernbird or a shag.
There is even a geocache hidden somewhere around the Wainamu wetland!
Found on the Tawharanui peninsula behind the predator fence where we take our Tawharanui day tours, you can find the very special Mangatawhiri Wetlands. Replanting work over the last 10 years has helped to restore much of this area that had been lost to the clearing of wetland forests.
This area is a mix of both freshwater and coastal wetlands, and offers several fantastic walking tracks around the area so you can see plenty of the waterways and landscape. The whole area is only five hectares, but there is a lot to see in such a small place.
With the help of the predator-proof fence and the welcoming environment of the wetlands, birds species such as the brown teal (pateke), the spotless crake, the banded rail, and the Australasian bittern.
Threats to wetlands
Unfortunately, it’s humans that pose the biggest threat to our beautiful wetlands. A large part of this is due to construction and development, as these areas need to be drained before building of any sort can begin. Any time humans excavate the ground itself (such as sand and gravel) from a wetland area, it affects the water levels and can damage the vegetation. There’s even a real chance that when people are careless during outdoor activities – such as kayaking, power boating, whitebaiting or jet skiing – they can damage the environment as well.
Other threats include pine forests that use the water, and even grazing stock that can damage vegetation and boost pollution. Alien plants and other pests can also have an affect on wetlands.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist