World Wetlands Day 1999 in New Zealand: 3

17/02/1999

Activities reported for World Wetlands Day 1999

2 February 1998

World Wetland Day Highlights Lake Wairarapa

Today (February 2 ) is World Wetlands Day and the Department of Conservation announced it would shortly be seeking comment on a draft plan to better integrate management of the nationally significant Lake Wairarapa wetlands.

World Wetlands Day celebrates the signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in Iran in 1971 which now has 114 countries as members and has nominated and safeguarded 965 wetlands of international significance.

"Today is ideal time to raise awareness about the plan and how it can help implement the objectives of the Government’s recently released Biodiversity Strategy", said Wairarapa area manager Derrick Field

The ten year plan has been drafted based on input from the community including councils, iwi, Fish and Game NZ, Federated Farmers and community groups.

It highlights the ecological, cultural and recreation values of the wetlands and associated management issues such as weeds, water quality and recreational opportunities.

"Because of their outstanding habitat values and contribution they make to maintaining ecological and genetic diversity, Lakes Wairarapa and Onoke and their associated wetlands easily meet the criteria established under the Ramsar Convention.

"With community support the wetlands could be nominated to join the five other New Zealand wetlands of international significance. These are the Firth of Thames, Whangamarino Swamp, Kopuatai peat dome, Farewell Spit and Waituna Lagoon.

"This would bring international recognition which could lead to more assistance for community and research projects associated with the wetlands.

Mr Field said Lake Wairarapa was the largest wetland system in the lower North Island attracting many native birds, including five threatened species and supporting over 10,000 waterfowl. Twelve species of freshwater fish, some threatened, and other marine fish also use the lake to feed and spawn.

The lakes and their shores have a complex and diverse pattern of plant communities including small remnants of native forest and the area has many strong historic and cultural values associated with Maori and later, European settlement.

The wetlands also provide an important recreation area for game bird hunting, boating, fishing, picnicking and wildlife observation, said Mr Field.

DOC World Wetlands Day Co-ordinator Chris Richmond said it was important to protect existing wetlands as we had lost more than 90 percent of our original ones.

"Much indigenous biodiversity depends upon wetlands, including migratory birds and fishes as well as resident plants and animals. In addition healthy estuarine and flood plain wetlands have recently been identified as providing ecosystems services worth more than $35,000 per hectare per year in economic benefits." (More information on this research can be obtained from Valuation of New Zealand’s Biodiversity by Dr Murray Patterson and Dr Anthony Cole of Massey University).

---------------- For more information please contact

Derrick Field, Wairarapa Area office 06-3770700 or

Sally Airey , Wellington Conservancy 04-4725821.

World Wetlands Coordinator Chris Richmond, DOC Head Office 04-4710726

Wellington Conservancy
P.O. Box 5086, 2nd Floor Bowen State Building, Bowen Street, Wellington, New Zealand
Telephone 04-472 5821, Fax 04-499 0077

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