Media release from Minister of Conservation: Wairarapa Moana seeks international recognition as vital wetland

5 June 2020

The Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage is celebrating World Environment Day with an announcement of a major step towards Wairarapa Moana being recognised as an internationally significant wetland.

“Wairarapa Moana is an ecosystem of 10,000 hectares of wetland and open water that provides a home for indigenous fish, birds and unique native plants. At least 25 native fish species and 96 bird species rely on this habitat, including birds that migrate between the northern and southern hemispheres such as the kuaka/bar-tailed godwit,” said Eugenie Sage.

“I’m delighted that this Government is demonstrating its commitment to nature and improving freshwater quality by agreeing to nominate Wairarapa Moana for recognition as a Wetland of International Importance through the Ramsar Convention”

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources, aiming to help protect these valuable ecosystems.

“The theme for this year’s World Environment Day is celebrating biodiversity. It’s fitting to recognise the valuable role wetlands play in improving freshwater quality while also being homes to an incredible range of indigenous fish, birds, plants, and bugs.”

“Wetlands also play a key role acting like the kidneys in the landscape by cleaning water that flows through them and slowing water run-off after rain.

“The nomination of Wairarapa Moana also means a lot to local residents, both recreationally and for its important cultural heritage. It was once the food-basket for iwi and a great source of mana. Today it’s also a popular place for recreation.

“The entire region takes its name from the wetlands – “’Wairarapa’ translates as “glistening waters”

New Zealand has already lost 90 percent of its wetlands and many of those remaining are threatened. Recognition under the Ramsar Convention means New Zealand must manage the wetland to protect the values it currently has, monitor these values and report back to the Convention.

As well as raising the profile and reminding everyone of its inherent worth, Eugenie Sage said Ramsar nomination sets strong obligations for New Zealanders to ensure we are caring for this wetland.

“I know that iwi, and community organisation working alongside local landholders, the Department of Conservation, Greater Wellington Regional Council and South Wairarapa District Council are ambitious to improve the health of the wetland. I congratulate everyone who has championed the listing for so long” concludes Eugenie Sage.

South Wairarapa District Council