Regionally significant wetlands 

Otago’s wetlands are recognised for their ecological, cultural, and socio-economic values.

Wetlands in Otago brochure 

What is a wetland?

Wetlands are permanently or intermittently wet areas that support natural ecosystems of plants and animals. They can include bogs, swamps, fens, shallow water and salt marshes, and are found from the  coast to the high country. 90% of New Zealand’s wetlands have been cleared and drained in the last 150 years, however an increasing number of land owners are now seeing the value in restoring these unique landscape features.

What’s so special about wetlands?

Wetlands are important environmental filters, often described as the kidneys of the landscape. They are also important for biodiversity by supporting a variety of native birds, fish, invertebrates, and plants.

Wetlands can improve water quality by:

  • Filtering sediment and nutrients
  • Removing soluble nitrogen from runoff and resurfacing groundwater. In some soils, managed wetlands are the most effective solution to reducing the amount of nitrogen reaching waterways. Too much nitrogen in the water can cause nuisance plant/algae growth, which affects ecosystems and water quality.

Wetlands are also valuable for Otago’s environment because they:

  • Improve local biodiversity by providing a habitat for fish, birds and insects
  • Reduce flood peaks by slowing the water flow
  • Retain summer water flows by releasing water slowly
  • Have both recreational and educational value.

Regionally significant wetlands

A Regionally Significant Wetland is:

Any wetland that has one or more of the following values:

  • Habitat for nationally or internationally rare or threatened species or communities
  • Critical habitat for the life cycles of indigenous fauna which are dependent on wetlands
  • High diversity of wetland habitat types
  • High degree of naturalness
  • Wetland scarce in Otago in terms of its ecological or physical character
  • Wetland which is highly valued by Kai Tahu for cultural and spiritual beliefs, values and uses, including waahi taoka and mahika kai
  • High diversity of indigenous flora and fauna
  • Regionally significant wetland habitat of waterfowl
  • Significant hydrological values including maintaining water quality or low flows, or reducing flood flows
  • Any wetland over 800 metres above sea level (alpine wetlands).

To protect the ecology, habitat and cultural values of Regionally Significant Wetlands, you must:

  • Not dig any new drains without resource consent. You can maintain existing drains, but there are conditions around this so give us a call before you start any work
  • Not dig any ponds without a resource consent
  • Not allow stock to damage the area - ORC recommends stock is excluded from wetlands
  • Not harm any native flora or fauna through over-spray or drift from weed spraying
  • Not introduce any exotic plant species without resource consent. A list of permitted plants can be found below
  • Not dam, divert or take water from a Regionally Significant Wetland, or alter the bed of a Regionally Significant Wetland, without resource consent
  • Make sure that any water discharged to a Regionally Significant Wetland is clear and colour-free, and does not change the water level range or flow of the wetland.

To find out the rules for Regionally Significant Wetlands, including plants you can and cannot plant in a wetland, click here.

Where are Otago's wetlands?

Click on a link below to view the wetlands in each district:

1. Akatore Creek Swamp
10. Black Swamp
11. Blackcleugh Burn Swamp
13. Blair Fen
14. Blair Swamp
17. Bungtown Bog
19. Camp Stream Swamp
21. Cannibal Bay Road Swamp
22. Catlins River Wetland
24. Cheetwood Road Wetlands
27. Clifton Hill Marshes
28. Clutha Matau Wetlands
29. Clutha River Mouth Lagoon
33. Culcairn Oxbow Marsh
38. Dunvegan Fen Complex
39. East Benhar Swamp
41. False Islet Wetland Management Area
43. Finegand Lagoon Marsh
47. Frasers Stream Headwaters Marsh Complex
51. Glendhu Swamp
54. Governors Point Swamp
56. Harrington Mill Road Swamp
59. Hazeldale Fens
62. Hukihuki Swamp
63. Hungerford Point Saltmarsh
67. John O'Groats Hill Fen
74. Kuriwao Saddle Fen Complex
77. Lake Tuakitoto Wetland
78. Lake Wilkie Swamp
81. Lenz Reserve Wetlands
84. Loch Loudon Fen Complex
85. Loch Luella Fen Complex
87. Lower Coutts Gully Swamp
91. Macfarlane Road Oxbow Swamp
92. Maclennan River Podocarp Swamp Complex
94. Malones Dam Margins
95. Marana Swamp
103. Measly Beach Wetland Complex
109. Molyneux Bay Swamp
117. Otanomomo Tuatiki Reserve
124. Pomahaka River Oxbow Marsh (Dalvey School Road)
125. Pomahaka River Oxbow Marsh (Koi Creek)
126. Ratanui Swamp
131. Rocky Hill Tidal Marshes
132. Samson Hill Marshes
139. Stirling Marsh Complex
140. Stuarts Marsh
144. Tahakopa Bay Podocarp Swamp
145. Tahakopa Marsh Complex
146. Tahakopa River Bogs
148. Tautuku River Mouth Marsh
151. Three Stones Fen Complex
153. Tokomairiro River Swamp
157. Trig Y Fens
158. Two Stone Hill Stream Swamp
160. Upper Tahakopa Swamps
167. Waipori/Waihola Wetland Complex
168. Wairepo Creek Marsh Complex
170. Willowburn Bog
172. Cairn Road Bog
Coutts Gully Swamp
Three Stones Fen Complex
Waipori/Waihola Wetland Complex

We encourage the establishment of new wetlands

Wetlands can improve water quality and provide additional habitat for birds, animals and insects. If you are planning to construct a wetland on your property, give us a call first and we can walk you through the process, resource consents, and other relevant issues. 

If you’re interested in protecting your wetland for future generations find out about covenants by contacting QEII National Trust on 04 472 6626 or

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