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Awarua Wetlands recognised for size and diversity

Hon Steve Chadwick
Minister of Conservation

4 May, 2008 Media Release

Awarua Wetlands recognised for size and diversity

Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick today congratulated Southland’s local communities for their commitment to maintaining the internationally recognised Awarua wetland.

Steve Chadwick joined private landowners, local and central government agencies, runanga and community groups to officially celebrate the newly renamed Awarua Wetlands.

“It is marvellous to see groups and communities come together to protect this diverse area. Less than 10 per cent of New Zealand’s wetlands remain; Awarua raises the bar for wetland restoration and expansion in New Zealand,” said Steve Chadwick.

The government recently announced that an additional 16,000 hectares of wetlands would be recognised as ‘Wetlands of International Importance’ under the International Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Only six New Zealand sites have received that recognition, and the Awarua wetland is the largest of these.

Awarua wetland is now five times larger than when it was first registered in 1976, and includes forests, tussock lands and sand dunes, as well as estuarine areas and swamps that extend from south of Invercargill to Toetoe Bay.

“The international recognition of Awarua is testament to the local community’s collaboration to achieve sustainable development. Where else can you stand on a beach, enjoying alpine flowers and plants and listening to the calls of dozens of species of birds?”

The wetlands include private land as well as public lands and the ceremony will recognise the contributions made by the owners of those lands.

“These wetlands are not just of value to science, but are an important playground for Southland. They teem with wildlife, are a key whitebaiting area, and provide a stunning landscape for recreational use. I hope that many more New Zealanders will learn to value these areas, and take the opportunity to explore them.”


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More information:

* The wetland is home to many nationally threatened and uncommon plant and animal species – 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.

* Southland was the first place in New Zealand to have a wetland officially recognised under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands when 3500 ha of peatland area, known as the Waituna Wetland Scientific Reserve, was registered in 1976.

* Recreational use of wetlands for whitebaiting, fishing, waterfowl hunting and simple enjoyment of free access to wild places is a long established tradition of the Southland community.
* Whitebait stands, favourite fishing spots and waterfowl hunting sites on public lands have been handed down for several generations with some families able to boast nearly a century of uninterrupted enjoyment of special places.
* The Awarua Wetland complex is made up of a diversity of habitat including bog, swamp, shrubland, forest, red tussock land, sand dunes, mudflats and estuary.


ENDS

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