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Welcome to the (historic) swamp

This last summer has been characterised by rain, and warmth. My personal weather station shows we've had 528.1 mm rain in the last complete 6 months:

  • November 2016: 101.6 mm
  • December 2016: 56.9 mm
  • January 2017: 64.9 mm
  • February 2017: 69.8 mm
  • March 2017: 72.9 mm
  • April 2017: 162.0 mm

By comparison, the historic rainfall data on the long-standing Waikawa Beach Weather site shows a total of 235.6 mm for the same 6 complete months over 2015–2016.

So, this last summer we've had more than twice as much rain as the previous summer.

This is particularly evident if you walk along Strathnaver Drive, and watch the flooded paddocks, now home to ducks, and occasionally spoonbills.

Flooded paddocks along Strathnaver Drive. These are usually dry.

Flooded paddocks along Strathnaver Drive. These are usually dry.

The paddocks in the photo above were dry for most of the last 3 years that we've been around these parts. There might be a day or two of heavy rain and a pond would form, but it would soon disappear again. Not this year: once it arrived it stayed.

A local, who's been here a decade or so and who owns a nearby paddock, told me he's never seen the water table so high.

That's why it was especially interesting when I recently found the Visualising Māori Land web page from Landcare Research. I looked at the Historic Wetlands overlay on the map and found a swamp.

Swampy area.

All those brown blobs are swampy areas.

What's a swamp? UCSB Science Line says:

Swamps - generally have slow-moving water and reside adjacent to rivers or other moving bodies of water. The level of water in a swamp can vary considerably with the adjacent river.

Let's zoom in a bit, so we can see Waikawa Beach better. And notice that up the road a bit we had some marshes.

Marsh - Also a wetland that is adjacent to a moving body of water, but tends to not have much water movement. It also forms a transition between open bodies of water and dry land.

Swampy Waikawa Beach south of Waikawa Beach Road.

Swampy land south of Waikawa Beach Road.

Now we can see that the eastern part of Strathnaver Drive, where those flooded paddocks are, is a historic swamp area.

Here's a third screenshot, that shows the village better.

Swampy Waikawa Beach east of the village.

Swampy Waikawa Beach east of the village.

Here we can see that the swampy area lay to the east of the village.

It's rather sobering to look at the Current Wetlands layer where most of the swamps have shrunk enormously or disappeared. Clearly though, enough rain betrays the swampy origins of much of this land.