World Wetlands Day 2002: New Zealand

08/02/2002

WORLD WETLANDS DAY 2 FEBRUARY:

Two events last week marked World Wetlands Day in the Waikato - signing of a peatlakes management accord at Lake Ngaroto on Friday, and celebration of the purchase of a site by the National Wetland Trust for the National Wetland Centre at Rangiriri.

Notes below re the latter, and attached press release re Accord signing for your information:

RANGIRIRI

As David Lawrie (National Wetland Trust) pointed out at Rangiriri on Saturday - there's something bizarre about celebrating World Wetlands Day on a blazing summer's day in February! But celebrate they did, with a function at the Rangiriri Heritage Centre, which just happens to be next door to the proposed National Wetlands Centre. (Feb 2 just happens to be the date the "Ramsar Agreement" was signed in 1971.)

The Trust, established just two years ago, has purchased a 4800 square metre block adjoining Lake Kopuera and within a fernbird squeak of our three internationally significant wetlands. Purchase was aided by a significant grant from the WEL Energy Trust, but the search is now on for another two million bucks to build an internationally significant facility to showcase wetlands throughout New Zealand.

Gordon Stephenson informed an audience of 40-50 people that the centre to be established "has to be of international quality, or it will fail."

"We drive around admiring the mountains, lakes, beaches and rivers - the sheep, cattle, pine forests and other features of our landscape. We see a patch of kahikatea forest and think 'that's bush, not wetlands.' When we see a muddy tidal flat we wish the tide would come in and cover it up! A wetland is a place just waiting to be drained, or where we can dump some more rubbish.

"Only fanatics like we people here today appreciate their real value. The National Trust has been formed to advance the cause of wetlands and this site here at Rangiriri scores on all accounts."

Gordon said the Trust is looking to establish a building of "indigenous architecture" that will be inviting to wetland enthusiasts and casual visitors alike, will be an educational facility for schools, wetland managers, farmers and others seeking deeper understandings of wetlands, will contain a library for research and seminar facilities.

"The trustees have agreed that the centre will be integrated with landscaped gardens demonstrating as many indigenous wetland vegetation types as possible, and the building will link by boardwalk to Lake Kopuera and eventually to Lake Waikare and Te Kauwhata.

"The centre is most appropriate here in the Waikato with three Ramsar sites nearby, but it will be a national centre, touching all parts of New Zealand. It could cost up to two million dollars ('don't gulp!') and we hope for serious progress by the time World Wetlands Day 2003 comes around."

Des Williams
CR/Journalist :
Waikato Conservancy
E-mail djwilliams@doc.govt.nz
or: desprado@xtra.co.nz

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