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World Wetlands Day celebrated at ZEALANDIA

Locals got the chance to learn more about the freshwater in their own back yard thanks to a World Wetlands Day event at ZEALANDIA on Sunday 2 February.

Greater Wellington Regional Council took part in the event, displaying a model that illustrated how wetlands filter and absorb water as it runs down from the mountains to the sea – a crucial role in the overall freshwater ecosystem.

Greater Wellington have been running a programme called ‘Healthy Waterways’ for several years, which supports landowners across the region to restore waterways and wetlands, Greater Wellington Chair Daran Ponter explains.

Close to $3 million has been spent by Greater Wellington to date through this programme, funding 194,800 plants, and 139.5km of fencing in the last five years alone.

“We want to encourage landowners to look out for, and get behind, wetlands and this was a great opportunity to showcase all the fantastic environmental benefits that come from having more wetlands.

“The model shows how wetlands can filter water that contains sediment and nitrogen. Some sphagnum moss played the role of wetlands, which is naturally found in wetlands, so people could see how it absorbs water which helps during heavy rainfall and acts as a filter,” Cr Ponter says.

Greater Wellington Climate Committee Chair Thomas Nash says Wetlands are core infrastructure for the climate because they store huge amounts of carbon, protect us from floods and coastal storm surges and protect against drought by retaining water in the landscape.

“They also support endangered wildlife – many animals that only live in wetlands such as certain species of birds, fish, insects and lizards, are now endangered and need wetlands to survive.

“We have already lost over 90 per cent of our wetlands, which are home to a large number of migratory birds and uncommon plants,” Cr Nash says.

ZEALANDIA hosted the event to showcase the work of conservation organisations to improve wetlands, lakes and streams.

Dr Danielle Shanahan, Director of ZEALANDIA’s Centre for People and Nature says visitors can find a surprising diversity of freshwater habitats at ZEALANDIA including lakes, streams and swamps.

“One of our most important projects at the moment is to improve the health of these habitats, which ultimately will boost the quality of water flowing in to the Kaiwharawhara Stream.

“This is part of our beyond-the-fence Sanctuary to Sea project, working with many partners to improve the water quality, biodiversity and restore the mouri (lifeforce) of the Kaiwharawhara.”

Visitors were also able to talk to experts from Hakuturi Roopu and Lakes380 at Sunday’s event.

- If you own land in the region and want to request a Wetland ID Guide to help you figure out if you have one (or more than one) on your land, you can request one by emailing biodiversity@gw.govt.nz

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