Thursday, June 13, 2024

Reaping what we sow

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Successive governing bodies have inadvertently destroyed 90 per cent of New Zealand’s wetlands since humans arrived here.

Between 1996 and 2018, 5400 hectares of freshwater wetlands and 140ha of saline wetland was destroyed for agriculture and urban expansion.

In the context of recent catastrophic climate events, their role as absorbing water from flooding is of enormous importance.

Wetlands temporarily store water allowing it to percolate into the ground and evaporate. This can reduce peak flooding and feed thousands of different plants and animals including many threatened with extinction.

Wetlands also protect water quality by trapping sediment and retaining excess nutrients and other pollutants such as heavy metals.

These functions are especially important when wetlands are connected to ground or surface water such as rivers and lakes and are used by humans for drinking.

Much of Wellington and Auckland’s polluted harbours can be traced to the destruction of its surrounding wetlands and the destruction wrought by cyclone Gabrielle on the North Island’s east coast would unquestionably have been less if the surrounding wetlands had been retained and is testimony to the government allowing so much of our wetlands destruction are now only reaping what they sowed.

The retention of the remaining 10 per cent of wetlands must be fought with tooth and nail and expanded at all costs otherwise the destruction wrought by cyclones and the poisoning of our drinking water rivers and polluted beaches can only get worse.

Gary Hollis, Mellons Bay

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