The Para wetland is situated north of Blenheim in the Waitohi Valley to the west of State Highway One. The area was a large kahikatea and totara swamp in pre-colonial times but most of the forest was cut and rafted down the Tuamarina River to Tuamarina. Large numbers of birds and fish used to inhabit the location and it provided an important food gathering area for Maori.
Due to the extremely limited difference in height of the northern and southern ends of the swamp, draining proved to be impractical and as a result the wetland survived colonial development however willows were planted, in theory, to stop flooding, but in reality severely degraded the habitat.
Fish and Game have poisoned most of the willows and a restoration plan is underway to revegetate the remaining wetlands in native species. The poisoning campaign was not without controversy as it has left large numbers of dead willows which are impractical to remove but will remain for some years till they decay naturally.
The surrounding area to the north is used mainly for dairying, while the hillsides that enclose the valley are mainly planted in exotic pine plantations, with resulting issues with regard to silting after harvest.