World Wetlands Day 2002: New Zealand
12 February 2002
A hot sunny cloudless day greeted Makaawhio Runanga, Jacobs River school pupils, local residents, and Department of Conservation staff who had gathered to celebrate World Wetlands Day on Saturday 2nd February at the Mahitahi River mouth.
The focus for this year's World Wetlands Day was "cultural values" and about 30 people gathered to hear Makaawhio Runanga talk about the cultural significance of wetlands.
'There is an obligation for us all to protect the wetlands, they are so important to all people and all life" said Kaumatua and Makaawhio cultural materials expert June Robinson.
Makaawhio chairperson, Paul Madgwick, together with Max Duncan, spoke of the importance of the Mahitahi River mouth for the local people whose histories are woven into this area.
Paul Madgwick later entertained everyone with examples of how to make an eel bob and tekateka (darts made from flax). With that, the inaugural "Harakeke Olympics" were launched with everyone trying their luck at how far they could throw their tekateka.
The day ended with the official launch of the mokihi, a traditional Maori raft. The raft was made by 15 year old Nathaniel Scott [photo below] from the dried flower stems of the harakeke and took 10 hours to build.
World Wetlands Day is celebrated on 2 February ever year. The day marks the anniversary of the signing of the international "Ramsar" agreement for the protection of wetlands, to which New Zealand is a signatory.
DOC Freshwater/Wetland specialist Philippe Gerbeaux said it was important to acknowledge the cultural values of wetlands.
" I am really pleased that a range of generations were able to be here today. It's important for the children to hear about the significance of wetlands and to share in the knowledge of those who have depended on wetlands for their lives.
" Safeguarding our wetlands is vitally important. They are part of the rich and complex web of life.
"They provide the water and food that countless species of plants and animals depend on for survival," said Mr Gerbeaux.
For more information, please contact Claire Healing in DOC's West Coast office on 03 755-5529.
Nathanial Scott with his mokihi, a traditional form of raft