Fish and Game hired a helicopter last week to investigate reports the Lundy Marsh (formerly the Cairns wetland) had been drained and the peat bog and tussock vegetation destroyed.
"You'd hardly recognise it, it's been drained, the vegetation is gone, and from the helicopter it looks like grass on top," Fish and Game Otago officer Morgan Trotter said.
On a scale of one to 10, he described the destruction of the wetland as a seven or eight.Bloody hell - this is really bad.
Wetlands acted as a sponge, absorbing water in winter and releasing it during dry conditions in summer, keeping rivers flowing, he said.
Mr Trotter said he had laid a complaint with the Otago Regional Council about the damage to the wetland, which he believed had taken place in the past year, although drainage of the area had been an ongoing issue.
He had also made an Official Information Act request to the council for all information it had on file regarding the wetland.Thank goodness for the Morgan Trotter's of the world.
Otago Regional Council resource policy director Fraser McRae said the damage done to the swamp was of concern and the council would be making inquiries to see whether the work was done legally or illegally.
"The current plan does not protect all wetlands, nor will it in the future stop people from draining everything people might see as a wetland."
Taking and draining water from a wetland was a permitted activity (did not need a resource consent) if it was not in the schedule 9 of significant wetlands.
The wetland was on leased council-owned Kuriwao Endowment Land but under the 1948 Act governing the land, the council had no control over what was done on the land by the lessee.
The wetland was not in the current water plan so was not subject to any protective measures, he said.Yep - you don't even need a resource consent to drain a wetland or starve it of water, then you can watch it slowly die. We need to help this wetland - I'll keep you posted on what we can do.