Nigel Binks is an avid explorer who enjoys travel and appreciates the natural beauty of different habitat types across the world, from coastal marine areas to mountains and wetlands.
In the first of a new occasional blog series, he reveals how and why he’s creating a wetland on his small rural property near Hamilton.
It was during my time abroad traveling I came to realise the importance of biodiversity and developed a stronger appreciation for the natural beauty that persists here in New Zealand.
Kiwis are very fortunate to have the opportunity to protect and enhance our remnant native ecosystems for our mokopuna and future generations.
My own research, explorations and adventures in New Zealand have engendered in me the need to protect, rehabilitate and enhance what remains by communicating and facilitating our local communities to actively be involved in conservation practices.
When I returned to New Zealand in 2012, following a series of adventures overseas with my wife Shiro, I began working in the conservation sector as an ecologist. My aim is to improve our understanding and appreciation for nature and to communicate restoration science to the broader community.
I am fortunate to own a 4-acre property on the outskirts of Hamilton. If you close your eyes, it’s easy to picture the property in your mind as it is a large completely flat square patch of land dominated by grazing pasture and separated into several paddocks. There are no contours to the land and no water body or water input except Waikato rainfall.
We purchased the property in 2015, but before we took over it had been used primarily as grazing pasture for horses and other large livestock. Although we do keep a few farmyard friends as pets on the property (Wilson and Betty the kunikuni pigs, Daphne and Velma the highland cattle, and our family of goats, Agnes, Harold, Fred and Iris), their complimentary grazing requirements mean there is ample spare space for alternative land uses.
As my wife pointed out to me when we first moved in, “there may be no gullies or bush, but you do have a blank canvas to do what you like with”.
With this in mind, and taking inspiration from my adventures in nature and combined with the types of restorative work I undertake with the Department of Conservation, I began planning a wetland zone for my own property.
This project is a self-funded labour of passion and initially required considerable planning time.
The concept is to create built-up areas above-ground and to excavate shallow wet zones below ground-level. This will facilitate the planting and establishment of native trees and shrubs and filter over-land flows of water from the surrounding land down into the deeper wetland areas.
I anticipate the creation of the wetland will improve the diversity of visiting and roosting native bird species, increases invertebrate diversity and abundance, and importantly this may provide food resource and draw in critically threatened long-tailed bats which roost in the nearby vicinity.
This wetland project features three primary phases: excavation, fencing and planting.
Phase 1 – excavation – began in May 2021 and took approximately 40 hours with a 5-tonne digger to complete the contours and to shape the land to my wetland vision.
Watching the development of the excavation phase has been like unwrapping a gift daily, peeling back the layers of wrapping to expose the beauty of the present below. The wetland itself was created as two inter-connected zones, a shallow zone which tapers down into a deeper wetland (35m long x 7m wide) featuring a bowl-shaped depression at either end.
Following the completion of the wetland excavations, in June, I have a fencing contractor coming in to install deer-netting fencing around the perimeter of the wetland paddock. Although I have no deer, 1.8m high fencing will prevent my animals from browsing on the native plants I plan to put in the ground as they grow.
This is an ambitious long-term project, and this first phase has been physically demanding, however, Phase 2 – fencing – will require a lot less of my physical input but will lighten my bank balance considerably. I’ll keep you posted (fencing pun) as phase 2 gets underway.
Stay tuned for phase 2!