World Wetlands Day 2000: New Zealand's strategy

20/10/1999

World Wetlands Day Public Awareness Strategy

Introduction

New Zealand is involved in World Wetlands Day celebrations because it has a number of internationally significant wetlands and wants to acknowledge its membership in the international community working for their protection. Residents of wetlands are also part of an international community of protected and harvested species.

February 2 each year is the anniversary of the 1971 signing of the international Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The convention is named after the Iranian city of Ramsar, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, where it was signed by delegates from many countries including New Zealand.

World Wetlands Day was officially designated in October 1996 and since then has been gaining momentum as an opportunity for increasing public awareness of the importance of wetlands. It was first observed in New Zealand in 1999.

It has not had a high profile to date in New Zealand, largely because wetlands are not a specific focus for the Department of Conservation’s national public awareness activities. Fish & Game New Zealand has had discussions with DOC and it has been agreed that World Wetlands Day is a perfect opportunity to increase the public profile of wetlands. It is also agreed that Fish & Game New Zealand should take the lead in promoting World Wetlands Day.

A national event held each year and backed up by regional initiatives will help improve public awareness of the role of a number of agencies in wetland management. It will also help increase public acceptance of the link between good wetland management and wise use of this valuable resource.

The New Zealand Game Bird Habitat Trust Board, which administers grants for wetland projects, also wants to take a role in promoting World Wetlands Day.

Fish & Game New Zealand will work with New Zealand Post (who market the annual "Duck Stamp") and a number of other organisations to ensure that New Zealand’s wetlands benefit as widely as possible from national celebrations of World Wetlands Day.

Objectives

  • To raise public awareness of the Ramsar Convention
  • To raise the public profile of World Wetlands Day
  • To increase the public involvement of other agencies in World Wetlands Day activities
  • To improve public understanding of the ecological importance of wetlands
  • To increase public awareness of the role of a range of organisations in wetland conservation and management
  • To increase Internet promotion of wetland information

Key Messages

The number one message is that wetlands are a vital, but shrinking, part of New Zealand’s biodiversity

Other important messages are:

  • A number of agencies are working together and provide vital funding and knowledge for wetland conservation
  • New Zealand is part of an international effort and has over 100 wetlands of international significance
  • Wetlands can be saved and everyone can help

Audiences

The focus will vary depending on the agency involved but the following are the key agencies and groups with an interest in wetlands and their conservation/wise use.

  • Regional Fish & Game Councils
  • Recreational users
  • Local and national government
  • Farmers
  • Iwi
  • Environmental organisations
  • Ramsar

Other important audiences are:

  • Media
  • General public
  • Schools

Tactics

The key to success will be to keep the programme simple. The intention is to celebrate World Wetlands Day each year so that it becomes a major national promotional event. It will therefore be possible in future years to build on what is done in 2000.

The proposal for this year is for agencies that get involved to develop some national activities, supported by activities in regions that have the resources to ensure success. All activities will be aimed at presenting the above key messages in appropriate ways for the target audiences. In some regions agencies may want to work together to increase the impact of their activities.

The media will play a vital role in promotions. We need to ensure that the activities we choose will attract media interest, so we will need to be creative in terms of providing them with new and "human interest" angles. We will also use a range of different media (particularly magazines and television and radio magazine programmes) in order to spread the messages as widely as possible. Community newspapers and local radio will also be important.

Printed resource material will be used to target schools and as backgrounders and handouts to the various audiences.

The Game Bird Habitat Trust Board hopes to publish a handbook on wetland development and restoration aimed at a general audience in time to be launched on World Wetlands Day.

Organisations taking part may want to develop "Adopt a Wetland" projects involving a range of people in their local communities.

A Wonderful Wetlands conservation newsletter will keep key audiences informed of what’s happening leading up to World Wetlands Day.

The Internet and e-mail will also be used wherever possible to promote the key messages as widely as possible. Fish & Game New Zealand expects to have its own Web site by Christmas 1999.

Tools

Media

  • Kit for national media including a breakdown of activities around the regions
  • Human/local interest stories for community media
  • Launch of wetland handbook
  • Feature organised with at least one national glossy magazine (North & South, Listener)
  • Liaison with TVNZ/TV3/RNZ programmers targeting "magazine" type programmes such as: Holmes (wetland personalities); Country Calendar (creating wetlands on rural properties); Maggie’s Garden Show (planting for wetlands); 5.30 With Jude (creating a wetland in your back yard); Assignment or 60 Minutes (what happens when there are no wetlands left etc); RNZ Rural Report.
  • Jim Hickey’s TV1 Weather Community Board
  • Newsletter

General public

  • National and provincial media coverage
  • Television and radio programmes
  • Launch of Game Bird Habitat Stamp through NZ Post outlets
  • "Adopt a wetland" projects
  • Launch of wetland handbook
  • Launch of Ramsar Awards
  • Electronic communications

Schools

  • Package of posters and activity sheets distributed to schools
  • "Adopt a wetland" projects
  • Newsletter
  • Electronic communications

Local & National Government/Federated Farmers/Landcare Trust/Environmental and recreational organisations/Iwi/DOC/ other Government Departments and agencies

  • Invitations to organise activities
  • Invitations to regional and national activities of other agencies/organisations
  • Launch of wetland handbook
  • Information kits
  • "Adopt a wetland" projects
  • Newsletter
  • Electronic communications

Ramsar

  • Package of information on World Wetlands Day promotions
  • Newsletter
  • Electronic communications

Measurement

Although we have no baseline research on the level of awareness of wetlands among the general public, it is safe to assume that this is not significant in comparison with their awareness of other conservation issues such as threatened species, native forests etc.

Organisations involved may have some baseline research (for instance Fish & Game NZ research shows that the general public is not aware of its involvement in wetland conservation). Surveying after the event will show whether awareness has improved.

Media monitoring will show whether we have been successful in generating media interest in World Wetlands Day.

Website monitoring will show the number of "hits" on the World Wetlands Day page.

Conclusion

The above programme provides a simple and achievable package of activities and material that will meet its objectives. The level of success can be measured by follow up research, allowing adjustments to be made in subsequent years.

Anna Mahoney
Public Awareness Manager
Fish & Game New Zealand

October 5 1999

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