As one of the lead agencies in the conservation and creation of wetlands, Fish & Game New Zealand is strongly committed to working towards the development of more of these threatened ecosystems throughout the country.
Today (Thursday, February 2, 2012) is World Wetlands Day, celebrated internationally to raise awareness of the value and benefits of wetlands.
Fish & Game communications advisor Grant Dyson points out New Zealand has lost 90% of its natural wetlands, through land development, and Kiwis are gradually starting to wake up to the vital role these precious environment’s play.
“Our wetlands include a wide variety of swamps, bogs, lakes, rivers, lagoons and estuaries and play a crucial role in providing habitats for wildlife – including many rare native species – and maintaining biodiversity,” he says.
“But there’s also a growing awareness of the important role they play in helping reduce flooding, recharging groundwater and augmenting flows, and filtering runoff.
“Fish & Game and game bird hunters are one of the biggest advocates for wetland protection and enhancement, and for many decades we’ve worked in good faith with landowners across the country trying to claw back lost habitat.”
Mr Dyson says he hopes World Wetland Day will continue to help dispel the notion that wetlands are just boggy swamps, pointing to wetlands such as Waituna, which is recognised as internationally significant habitat.
Another is Whangamarino, south of Auckland – the second largest bog and swamp complex in the North Island. Managed by the Department of Conservation, the wetland is an important habitat for threatened species such as the Australasian bittern and grey teal.
The West Coast of the South Island is also endowed with a variety of large and valuable wetlands which have become important breeding grounds for rare species.
“Fish & Game is proud to have played a leading role in wetland protection – managing, developing or helping to create numerous wetlands in many parts of the country.”
One impressive wetland enhancement project overseen by Fish & Game is nearing completion in the Bay of Plenty. The $1 million project has involved the construction of a 1.2km bund to hold Waikato River water in an old river channel and create a permanent wetland. The project was a joint venture between Contact Energy, Wairakei Environmental Mitigation Charitable Trust and the Waikato Catchment Ecological Enhancement Trust.
Mr Dyson says Fish & Game has also been working at a ‘micro’ level, assisting farmers and other landowners to turn unproductive, flood-prone and swampy areas of their properties into healthy wetland environments, supporting a variety of plants, birds and animals.
Landowners are invited to discuss with Fish & Game a variety of free services the organisation can provide, ranging from evaluations, costings, resource consent assistance, and planting recommendations, and the potential for funding through the Game Bird Habitat Trust.
“In marking another World Wetland Day, I’d like to reiterate Fish & Game’s commitment reversing the massive loss of wetland habitat in New Zealand.”
Every year, on February 2, the anniversary of the signing of the Ramsar Convention is celebrated as World Wetlands Day. Since 1997, people from all sectors of society throughout the world have undertaken actions aimed at raising public awareness of the value of wetlands and the importance of the Ramsar Convention.
The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an international agreement signed by many different governments around the world that provides the foundation for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 160 contracting parties to the Convention. There are moer than 1,900 wetland sites, totaling over 180 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar Convention’s List of Wetlands of International Importance or Ramsar site, as they are also known. Parties to the Ramsar Convention include Australia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Samoa.
Wetlands occur where there is poor drainage or where water accumulates. Freshwater wetlands merge with lakes and rivers, and with brackish or saline wetlands near the coast. The Resource Management Act 1991 defines wetland as ‘permanently or intermittently wet areas, shallow water, and land water margins that support a natural ecosystem of plants and animals that are adapted to wet conditions.’