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Forest And Bird: World Wetland Day 2002

February 1, 2002 - Auckland


World Wetland Day 2002: New Zealand lags behind developed nations in terms of wetland protection

New Zealand and the rest of the world will celebrate World Wetland Day tomorrow. Forest and Bird says our performance in terms of the Ramsar Convention does not compare well to other developed nations. The Society hopes that the increased attention being given to World Wetland Day in New Zealand signals a move towards better protection and management of wetlands in New Zealand.

"New Zealand has only designated 5 wetlands as being of international significance" says Eric Pyle, Forest and Bird's Conservation Manager. "This puts us on a par with developing nations".

In contrast the United Kingdom has designated 163 wetlands and Australia recognizes 56. New Zealand has not designated a wetland as being of international importance for over ten years".

"Many of our northern harbours, such as the Kaipara, and southern braided river systems would qualify as wetlands of international significance," says Mr Pyle. "It's time the Government lifted our third world status on the designation of wetlands of international importance".

"The Auditor General has already criticised New Zealand's implementation of the Ramsar Convention and it is time the Government responded," says Mr Pyle.



1. The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 130 Contracting Parties to the Convention, with 1133 wetland sites, totaling 91.4 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. For further information on the Convention for the Protection of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) visit

2. New Zealand has lost around 90% of fresh water wetlands and coastal marine wetlands are also under pressure from reclaimation, pollution and overfishing. However, it is over a decade since New Zealand recognized and designated a wetland site as being of international importance, and we have only 5 of them at present. In contrast the United Kingdom has designated 163 wetlands and Australia recognizes 56.

3. Announcements by the Ramsar Bureau of new Wetlands of International Importance made over the last month include:

* 01/02/02: the Government of Nicaragua has designated seven new Wetlands of International Importance, effective 8 November 2001, to be announced in ceremonies on World Wetlands Day 2 February 2002

* 28/01/02: the Republic of Argentina has named, effective 18/01/02, the "Lagunas y Esteros del Iberá" (24,550 hectares, 28°31'S 057°09'W, Natural Reserve) as its 10th Wetland of International Importance.

* 25/01/02: the Government of India has designated two new Ramsar sites in Punjab state, effective 22 January 2002, the first instalments in quite a large package of new designations

* 24/01/02: the Republic of Kenya has named Lake Baringo (28,400 hectares, 00°32'N 036°05'E) as its 4th Wetland of International Importance.

* 22/01/02: the Government of Ecuador has designated two new Wetlands of International Importance, effective 2 February 2002 and to be officially announced on World Wetlands Day.

* 22/01/02: An exceptionally beautiful Ramsar site, a small island west of the Isle of Mull in Scotland's Inner Hebrides, has been designated effective 16 November 2001 as a Wetland of International Importance by the United Kingdom, bringing the UK's Ramsar total to 167 sites.

* 19/01/02: The Government of the People's Republic of China has tripled its number of Wetlands of International Importance by designating, effective 11 January 2002, 14 provincial and national Nature Reserves for the Ramsar List, an addition of 1,959,383 hectares.

* 14/01/02: The Ramsar Bureau is delighted to announce the designation by Chad of its very large portion of Lake Chad, effective 11/01/02.

4. New Zealand's wetlands of international significance are:

* Firth of Thames

* Whangamarino Wetland (Waikato)

* Kopuatai Peat Dome (Hauraki Plains)

* Farewell Spit

* Waituna Wetlands (Southland)

Contact: Eric Pyle, Conservation Manager, Forest and Bird; Tel (04) 385-7374 Sarah Gibbs, Northern Field Officer, Forest and Bird; Tel. (09) 303-3079.

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