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Upper Taieri wetlands nationally significant project

The Walking Access Commission is excited to be supporting a project to conserve, restore and develop wetlands along the Upper Taieri in Central Otago.  

The 5-year funding application includes identifying any access issues, developing potential recreational opportunities and promoting access to this nationally significant scroll plain and its tributaries. 

The Tiaki Māniatoto project run by the local catchment group, Upper Taieri Wai, is at stage 2 to receive $4.5 million in Freshwater Improvement Funding. It plans to erect fencing along waterways, restore native plants to rivers and wetland areas, undertake extensive weed and pest control and develop and create recreational access. It will also create jobs and business opportunities.  

Upper Taieri Wai is a community forum that works on resource management issues for Upper Taieri. It has broad community support from landholders, farmers, local businesses, Otago Fish and Game, the Department of Conservation, Ngai Tahu iwi and the Otago Regional Council.  

Walking Access Commission Regional Field Advisor Amie Pont has supported Upper Taieri Wai with its funding application. She will also be working to develop access covenants and promote access in the wetlands. She says the project will benefit the entire Upper Taieri habitat.  

Pont says the Taieri River is one of the longest rivers in New Zealand.  

"It starts in Central Otago as an intricate network of meandering tributaries and follows a windy course across the Māniatoto, through Strath Taieri and out to the sea near Dunedin.  What we do up here affects what they do down there.”  

It provides drinking and irrigation water and is an important recreational resource for people in the Māniatoto, including the Styx basin. 

Kāi Tahu value the area, including as a traditional mahika kai area. Local Ngai Tahu iwi from Otakau Pā in Dunedin visited the Māniatoto this week to begin identifying areas of significance and sharing their knowledge. 

The Taieri scroll plain wetlands are one of the top waterfowl sites in New Zealand. Among the 28 bird species recorded are the endangered black-billed gull, grey duck, white heron, Australasian Bittern and black-fronted tern.  This optimal habitat has also meant a significant problem with geese and the pollution they create.

The wetlands are also home to the Central Otago roundhead galaxias and the Taieri Flathead galaxias. Both threatened species are only found in this area.  

Pont says wetlands are dramatic and diverse landscapes. “Locals and tourists will use this improved access to see and learn about the plants and animals. It is also a wonderful chance to share the korero of our Māori heritage in the area," she says. 



Tanya Vance (DOC), Paulette Tamati-Elliffe (Otakau marae, Kai Tahu), Mauraka (Puketeraki, Kai Tahu), Edward Ellison (Otakau marae, Kai Tahu), Dawn Sangster (Tiaki Māniatoto), Chris Kavazos (obscured – DOC), Amie Pont (NZWAC), Steve Bryant (Otakau marae, Kai Tahu), Emma Crutchley (Tiaki Māniatoto), Janine Smith (Tiaki Māniatoto), Morgan Trotter (Project Manager Tiaki Māniatoto), John Highton (Fish & Game), and Emily Funnell (DOC).

Tiaki Māniatoto April 2021