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Endangered Wetlands Celebrated

MEDIA RELEASE
Tuesday February 1, 2005

Endangered Wetlands Celebrated

A nationwide series of events is taking place in early February to mark World Wetland’s Day (WWD). The Day is held internationally on February 2. Fish & Game New Zealand, the lead agency for New Zealand’s WWD, today announced the events and activities taking place around the country (list follows). . Fish & Game New Zealand is the agency coordinating New Zealand’s World Wetlands Day 2005.

“Wetlands are a key part of our environment and biodiversity,” says Graham Ford, Fish & Game spokesperson “Yet, our record at preserving our wetlands as a nation is appalling. We have slashed and burned them, regarded then as wasted land to be drained and sown with grass seed, ignoring their ecological biodiversity.”

“In early February dozens of groups are getting together around the country to raise recognition of this ‘Cinderella of the environment - New Zealand has less than 10 percent of its wetlands left.”

“Wetlands are part of river systems” says Graham Ford. “They store flood water, filter out contaminants and they are often created by rivers as they change course. Last year the ‘Living Rivers’ coalition was formed by Fish & Game, Forest & Bird, Federated Mountain Clubs and the Canoeists to protest at the pollution and abstraction of our rivers. The Living Rivers coalition adds wetlands to that list of waterways in urgent need of protection and enhancement.”

Says Graham Ford: “Wetlands are home to more bird, animal and plant species than any other type of habitat. Wetlands are home to rare and endangered animals and birds such as the Australasian bittern, brown teal, ferns and mosses.”

“They play an important international environmental role. Many migrating birds seek to visit wetlands. Arctic waders and terns migrate south after breeding during winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Thousands of godwits and sandpipers visit New Zealand wetlands annually.”

Wetlands are some of the most important ecosystems on the planet. They store and purify water, replenishing groundwater, storing carbon and supporting biological diversity.

According to the United Nations, last century 50% of the world’s remaining wetlands were destroyed. Other wetlands have been significantly modified to fragment and alter water flow in 60% of the world’s largest rivers, compromising many valuable ecosystem functions.

New Zealand’s record at managing wetlands has been very poor. Between 1954 and 1976, 12,000 hectares of wetlands were being lost each year. Until the mid 1980s farmers were still being encouraged to drain wetlands through subsidies.

A large number of agencies come together to hold events to mark the Day. Agencies participating this year include: Fish & Game New Zealand, The Department of Conservation, Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, Iwi, Regional and District Councils, and the National Wetlands Trust.

ENDS


World Wetlands Day 2005 – Planned Events

Northland
Northland will undertake a wetland pond tour of the Kawakawa Wetlands which have recently had $13,000 spent on them through grants received from the Pub Charities. The area is part of a flood plain and is normally inundated with water in the winter months. The programme will include the official opening by the local District Council Mayor, or a council representative, and the local owner of the hotel and members of the community who have helped fund this work.A barbecue is planned along with displays from NRC, DOC and Fish & Game. The local media will be invited.


Auckland/Waikato – Launch of 2005 Gamebird Habitat Stamp
A field trip to three different wetlands and illustrated talk in sponsor Mighty River Power’s corporate marquee at Rangiriri on the site of the planned National Wetland Centre. There will be a visit to Lake Kaituna at Horsham Downs, just south of Hamilton, to see a restored wetland near one of the peat lakes, then onto Kimihia, a wetland fed by water from Huntly East Coalmine, to look at a constructed wetland with high conservation values, and finally Opuatia to see a bog wetland in good condition. At the end of the field trip there is a barbecue at Rangiriri and the launch of the Gamebird Habitat Trust Stamp, followed by illustrated talks on how wetlands represent 'wealth in diversity.'

Bay of Plenty
Full-day bus trip from Tauranga, Rotorua and Whakatane departing approx. 9am - returning approx. 4.30pm Matata Lagoon, morning BBQ lunch provided. Norske Skog Wetlands, Kawerau, afternoon Wetland restoration theme; speakers, displays, activities. The Matata is an important coastal wetland that has just received funding for redevelopment, with the issues of urban development, pollution and the like.

Hawke’s Bay
Saturday 5 February 9.00am - 12.00 noon Open Day at Muddy Creek Wetland, East Clive Hawke’s Bay: displays, bird identification and talks on wetlands.

Taranaki
Field trip to the Took Wetlands east of Stratford on Saturday 5th February. The wetlands are located next to a working quarry in an old oxbow of the Patea River. The Taranaki Regional Council has been trialing a comprehensive animal and plant pest management programme at this site with good results and TRC pest management staff will be on hand to explain the various pest control methods and how landholders and interested parties can enhance the biodiversity values of wetlands through pest control. A World Wetland’s Day feature will also appear in the Taranaki Daily News and Stratford Press on Wednesday 2nd February.

Manawatu
"Pukepuke Lagoon Open Day", off Tangimoana Road, SH1. The Minister of Conservation, Chris Carter, will also attend. Talks on wetland birds and plant life, the history of flax cutting and flax weaving demonstrations. Saturday February 5.

Marlborough
Open Day at the Grovetown Lagoon near Blenheim on Saturday February 5. Talks on the wetland, guided tours with a barbecue to follow.

Nelson
On Wednesday 2 Feb in Nelson there is an evening talk by John Preece on "Making wetlands work for you".

Bus tour to wetlands in Motueka targeting local district councillors, council staff, as well as gravel contractors to explain and show them wetland creation in relation to gravel extraction.

Central South Island
“Plant-a-thon on a tributary to the Opihi River, a significant salmon fishery. The riparian margin has been retired and fenced by the landowner. Barbeque to follow. This will be on Sunday 6 February.

Canterbury
Bus tour for home schoolers to Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere to look at wetland issues at the lake. Includes a walk, talks and visit to an eel processing factory. Wednesday 2 February.

Queenstown
A World Wetland’s Day display at the Department of Conservation ueenstown Visitor Centre.

Otago
Wetland poster design competition. This is being promoted through community notice boards and kids school holiday programs. Posters will include the WWD slogan, winning entries will be displayed either at the Library or Museum or maybe even in the Meridian Mall in town. Entrants will be able to pick up an 'entry pack' from F&G or DOC, which will include an A3 sheet of paper, registration form, F&G wetland info brochures and F&G and DOC stickers. Promotion starts for real after 5th January and as a 'rainy day project for the end of the holidays' .

Southland
Bus trip to Waituna lagoon, open to the public with BBQ lunch, on Saturday 29th of January. It is intended to be a family oriented day. Events include electro-fishing, guided walks looking at the special plants and wildlife in the wetlands, lagoon and coast, and fishing displays. There will be talks about how special this area is to locals, and the importance of wetlands both economically and environmentally.

ENDS

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