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NZ wetlands receive international recognition

2 February 2008


2nd February

NZ wetlands receive international recognition

Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick has announced today on World Wetlands Day that a unique area of New Zealand wetlands has received international recognition.

16,000 hectares of wetlands in Southland have become part of a network of just six New Zealand sites that are recognised under the International Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

The convention recognises the unique values and importance of the area around the Awarua Plains, New River Estuary, Toetoes Harbour and Spit, and around Foveaux Strait.

Steve Chadwick said around 3500 hectares of this area were previously listed under the convention, and this extension means the newly renamed Awarua Wetlands is more than five times bigger than the original Waituna Wetlands Scenic Reserve.

“This area covers a very diverse range of natural habitats; including bog, swamp, forest, shrubland, saltmarsh, mudflats, estuaries, lakes, rivers, lagoons and sand dunes.

“It is home to many nationally threatened and uncommon plant and animal species; from unique sub-alpine plants and insects found at sea level, 81 different types of birds and a wide range of fish that live in the sea, estuaries and rivers.

“It’s a huge privilege to be able to announce this valuable addition to New Zealand’s wetlands that is now recognised under this convention. I am proud that our unique natural environment continues to receive international acclaim, particularly on World Wetlands Day.”

The Awarua Wetlands also have cultural, spiritual and historic value to the Kai Tahu iwi.

For World Wetlands Day, Steve Chadwick is also attending the release of up to 30 critically endangered pateke, or brown teal, into an open sanctuary in Tawharanui Regional Park, north of Auckland.

Steve Chadwick said these ducks are among the four rarest waterfowl in the world, and it’s hoped that the population will come to breed naturally in this predator-controlled sanctuary.

She also launched a survival guide to teach people in the wider community about how to protect pateke and other endangered birds.

Background:

World Wetlands Day celebrates the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the 2nd of February 1971.
New Zealand became a party to the Convention in 1976, and has six listed sites under the convention, which now cover 55068 hectares:
- The newly expanded and renamed Awarua Wetlands in Southland (formerly known as Waituna Wetlands Scenic Reserve)
- Farewell Spit in Golden Bay
- Whangamarino Wetland, Kopuatai Peat dome, and Firth of Thames in the Waikato
- Manawatu River Estuary.

Each year, World Wetland’s Day raises awareness and promotes the values and benefits of wetlands.

A third of New Zealand’s freshwater fish occur in wetlands, and many endangered plants depend totally on wetlands. Wetlands support more birds than any other habitat in New Zealand, far more species than the same area of forest, and the survival of several threatened species relies on New Zealand’s remnant wetlands.

Apart from their biodiversity values, wetlands are important for flood control, water quality, recreation, tourism, and education.

ENDS

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