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Wetlands' Importance Recognised

Birds moving into new wetland at Waitangi Regional Park Copy

With World Wetlands Day happening around the world on Thursday 2 February, the focus will be on ‘Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction’. 

Many efforts are being made in Hawke’s Bay to restore and even recreate wetlands by farmers, environmental groups and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council. 

In 2018 Hawke’s Bay Regional Council will be hosting the national Wetland Restoration Symposia.  Experts from around the world and the country will converge in Napier for this event. 

Hawke’s Bay used to be dominated by wetlands.  Marsh and swamps once covered large parts of the plains and valleys.  These used to be habitats and food sources initially for wildlife and then for Maori who also used the waterways as transport and hunting routes.

Now Hawke’s Bay wetlands are spread far and wide.  The largest is Whakaki, on the coast north of Wairoa, which is managed and monitored in conjunction with Whakaki Māori Trust.  The smallest include farm dams, ponds and boggy areas planted and fenced off by landowners and volunteer groups.

One of the important functions of wetlands is reducing disaster risk, as reflected in this year’s international theme. When heavy rain runs through hills, swamps in valleys can hold large amounts of water, allowing sediment to sink and nutrients to be taken up by plants.  Cleaner water is then released steadily therefore reducing potential damaging impacts.  

Wetlands are important as feeding and breeding places, for birds, insects and fish.

“It didn’t take long for birds to move into the new wetland area on the coast at Waitangi Regional Park, just showing that nature bounces back quickly when we enhance or create the right habitats,” says HBRC Open Spaces Manager, Steve Cave.

Diggers have created new ponding areas, using the fill to raise roads and public areas above floodwater level. As soon as the wetlands had water in them, Royal spoonbills and heron arrived and some pied stilts, ducks and dotterels have raised chicks there.

 PHOTO: Waitangi Regional Park’s new wetlands with Royal spoonbills.

As well as enhancing and reconstructing wetlands, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has started a state of the environment programme monitoring freshwater wetlands in the Tukituki catchment. 

“We are collecting ecological information so that Hawke’s Bay people can better understand what plants and animals are in these wetlands, the nutrient status and how the water flows in and out of these areas,” says Keiko Hashiba. 

Ecological monitoring and enhancement programmes at some of the larger wetlands is also managed by the regional council on behalf of everyone in the region -  Pekapeka Wetland, Lake Whatuma, Whakaki Lagoon, Tukituki Estuary, Waitangi Estuary, Lake Runanga, Lake Oingo, and Whakamahi/Whakamahia Lagoons.

Many landowners and groups in Hawke’s Bay have taken it upon themselves to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on both private and public land.  These people recognise the many benefits wetlands provide, including habitat for native wildlife, recreation and reducing farm nutrient losses.  HBRC provides advice and financial support for wetland projects through the Regional Landcare Scheme. In the last ten years, we have assisted over 140 individual landowners or groups culminating in around 190 wetland restoration or enhancement projects.

More information about World Wetland Day here.

Background Note

The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention was established in 1997. It is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. The Ramsar Secretariat provides material to help raise public awareness about the importance and value of wetlands.  New Zealand is one of the countries to have signed the Ramsar Convention.

New Zealand has six Ramsar sites, internationally significant wetlands covering more than 55,000 hectares. 

  • Firth of Thames - Hauraki
  • Kopuatai Peat Dome - Waikato
  • Whangamarino wetland - Waikato
  • Manawatu River Estuary - Horowhenua
  • Farewell Spit - top of the South Island
  • Awarua Waituna Lagoon – Southland.


1 February 2017

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