Partnering to preserve a unique environment

With the formation of community partnerships featuring high in the future directions of Rotary, the Environmental Committee of the Rotary Club of Plimmerton, NZ, has partnered with local conservational group Friends of Taupo Swamp and Catchment to restore and develop the swamp.

In pre-European times, Taupo Stream and Swamp was a rich source of food, including eels and freshwater crayfish, plus the fibres comprising flax and raupo.

New Zealand’s environmental history is littered with stories of wetlands being drained to make way for farmland or settlements. However, in the Wellington region, there is a rare example of a substantial wetland that survived this onslaught.

PICTURED: Plimmerton Club member and environmental enthusiast, Bill McAulay briefing young volunteers.

Over the past 150 years, there were a number of attempts to drain the swamp for farming, but these attempts only partially succeeded. Wedged between two hilly areas, the swamp also lay in the path of both the main trunk railway line and, later, a major highway. Ultimately it was its peaty soils and poor drainage that saved it from destruction and both the railway and the highway were designed to skirt around the periphery of the swamp to avoid the difficult and expensive engineering feat involved in constructing these through it.

The swamp area was purchased in 1986 by the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust and protected by a covenant. Today, the 30-hectare wetland area is the largest remaining flax swamp in the Wellington region and is appreciated for its recreational value.

PICTURED: RI Director Jessie Harman planting a tree as part of the Taupo Swamp and Catchment Restoration project.

In 2019, Porirua City Council approached the Friends of Taupo Swamp with a suggestion that the group expand their planting horizons to include a council-owned sports field adjacent to the swamp. The field had always been dogged by flooding problems so was never able to fully function as originally intended. The Rotary Club of Plimmerton Environment Committee saw the opportunity to further protect Taupo Swamp and create a great community asset by restoring areas of the domain and the adjacent stream.

With funding from the Rotary Peace and Remembrance Community Forest Trust and Porirua City Council, a restored wetland and forest is now on the city’s doorstep. The Environment Committee has worked tirelessly with Porirua City Council staff to plan, design and plant this wonderful area. More than 20,000 plants are now in the ground and growing exceptionally well. The project is on-going, with further funding from the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

During a recent visit to the area, RI Director Jessie Harman unveiled a Rotary Peace Remembrance and Community Forests Trust plaque at the Taupo Swamp site.

Wetlands have been with us since time immemorial
The irreplaceable remaining wetlands, be they estuarine or freshwater ecosystems, provide an invitation for the convergence of ancient wisdom, indigenous knowledge, and contemporary science. Biodiversity and fresh water are essential for us all. A wetland’s health and wellbeing can be assessed by a mix of the presence of indicator species such as whitebait, eels and crustaceans, or by chemical analysis. Wetlands cleansed by nature and nurtured by people are a precious resource the world over.