World Wetlands Day 1999 in New Zealand: 4

17/02/1999

Activities reported for World Wetlands Day 1999

29 January 1999

Chief reporter: (For immediate release)

NATIONAL WETLANDS CENTRE PROPOSED FOR WAIKATO

A national wetlands centre based in the Lower Waikato area would help implement objectives of the Government’s recently released draft Biodiversity Strategy, says the Waikato Conservation Board.

Chairperson Megan Balks of Hamilton said the Board is trying to generate interest in a national wetlands centre for the Waikato as a Millennium 2000 project. With Tuesday (2 Feb) being World Wetlands Day, now is the ideal time to start thinking about the project, she said.

"Our ever-diminishing wetlands are crying out for a first class centre where people can learn about their importance, and about the remarkable diversity of life which exists in them.

"We have done very well in protecting our native forests over the past century, with national parks, forests and scenic reserves. People relate easily to those areas because they can get out and walk around in them, Megan Balks said.

"Gaining access to our wetlands is more difficult, and they have a much lower profile because of that, being considered waste areas and treated as dumping grounds for all sorts of rubbish. With less than 10% of our original wet areas left, we have to change public perceptions about wetland values."

Dr Balks said a national wetland centre in the Waikato, where three of New Zealand’s internationally recognised wetlands are located, would be a huge step towards helping the public gain a better understanding of their importance.

"Wetlands store excess floodwaters like a big sponge, slowly releasing it after the threat of flood has subsided. At the other extreme, the stored water supply in wetlands becomes available to streams and rivers during summer drought. They are pretty important functions, without even starting to think about their recreational values."

Dr Balks said the Waikato Conservation Board has applied to the Millennium 2000 Project Committee to fund the national centre, which would house static and live displays, and provide material for public information and research. Although the Board did not have a specific site in mind, somewhere adjacent to State Highway One near Meremere or Te Kauwhata and the Whangamarino wetland seemed logical.

"The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands held its Oceania regional meeting in Hamilton last month (Dec 1998) and the Deputy secretary-general, Dr Bill Phillips congratulated New Zealand on its wetland management achievements to date. But he stressed that we could and should be doing more: ‘It’s time you stepped forward and shared your knowledge with the rest of the world,’ he said.

"A national wetlands centre would be a great start in sharing that knowledge, and would help meet the objectives of the draft Biodiversity Strategy, which notes the low level of public understanding of the special characteristics, values and vulnerabilities of freshwater biodiversity."

Megan Balks said the Waikato Conservation Board’s primary objective is to generate public support for the centre at this stage, while more detailed planning is undertaken. The Board will be calling for a public meeting, probably in late March, to discuss the proposal.

Ends.

Further information from Megan Balks, tel 07 856 2889; Bev Clarkson, tel 07 838 4441, or Sue Harington, tel 07 838 3363.


28 January 1999

Chief reporter: Te Awamutu Courier

WORK FOR WORLD WETLANDS DAY

Willow control work by the Department of Conservation at Ohaupo’s Lake Rotomanuka this week can be regarded as a small local contribution to help celebrate World Wetlands Day, says Waikato biodiversity officer, Grant Barnes.

Control of pussy willow at the lake, visible from the State Highway on the south-east outskirts of Ohaupo, is part of an on-going management programme at the wildlife reserve. The aerial spraying operation by helicopter targeted large willows in the otherwise native vegetation area, which separates Rotomanuka from the adjacent Lake Gin.

"World Wetlands Day is actually next Tuesday [2 Feb], but aerial spray operations are very dependent on having suitable weather conditions, to ensure against any sort of spray drift away from the site," Grant Barnes said. "We took the opportunity to proceed with the programme this week, rather than risk unsuitable weather on the day."

Grant Barnes said Lake Rotomanuka is one of several nationally and internationally unique remnant "peat lakes" in the area which are protected under the Reserves Act 1977.

"Day to day management is in accordance with the department’s Wetlands Action Plan and other recent works, such as boundary fencing, is designed to maintain the reserve as near as possible in its natural state."

Grant Barnes said the department would be spraying a further 60 hectares of willows at Whangamarino, near Meremere, next week [3 Feb].

Ends.

Further info from Grant Barnes or Des Williams, tel 07 838 3363.

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