Scroll plain wetland protected

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The foresight of a Maniototo farming family has led to the protection of the largest remaining scroll plain wetland in New Zealand.

John Falconer said he was pleased to have safeguarded the land for future generations.
The Upper Taieri Scroll Plain wetland near Paerau, in the Styx Basin, encompasses 45ha and is the largest of its type in New Zealand.
It is believed to be one of the world’s most significant examples of this type of wetland area.

The mosaic of oxbows, bogs and tussock grasslands contain significant biodiversity, fish and wildlife including large, sometimes trophy-sized, brown trout.

Mr Falconer and his wife Mary, who have two children, bought Loganburn Station including the wetland, from Meridian Energy about five years ago. The wetland was problematic from a farming perspective, Mr Falconer said.
‘‘I looked at that scroll plain and thought that piece of land is not really suitable for modern farming.’’

He approached Otago Fish & Game with the view the land should be preserved from a fishing and hunting perspective.
What followed was two years’ work with the organisation to identify flora and fauna unique to the wetland before the transaction could take place, Mr Falconer said.
Otago Fish & Game chief executive Ian Hadland said the deal had been struck during lockdown.

The land was protected as a publicly accessible wildlife management reserve in perpetuity.
Mr Hadland said the Falconers had wanted to stay out of the spotlight, but the significance of the achievement had since dawned on them.

Fish & Game officer Morgan Trotter said the Upper Taieri was the only remaining example of a large scroll plain wetland in the country.
‘‘It is one of the 10 most important waterfowl wetlands in New Zealand and performs an important function in terms of lessening the impact of downstream flood peaks and low-flow events,’’ Mr Trotter said.

‘‘It is also highly valued by Kai Tahu for cultural and spiritual beliefs, values and uses, including mahika kai.’’

The scroll plain has national and international significance and presents a dramatic image, especially when viewed from the air.
It borders the Taieri River and the Logan Burn and is part of the wider Styx Basin scroll plain.

The acquisition of the Paerau wetland would not have been possible without assistance from the Nature Heritage Foundation which helped private landowners, community groups and others protect high-value ecosystems for perpetuity.