2 February each year is World Wetlands Day, marking the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. This is an international date with a different theme and message on a relevant subject set each year by the Ramsar Secretariat.
World Wetlands Day 2014
The year 2014 has been designated by the United Nations as the International Year of family farming.
In recognition of the important interrelationship between farming and wetlands, the theme for World Wetlands Day 2014 is Wetlands and agriculture: partners for growth.
Wetlands have often been seen as a barrier to agriculture, being drained and reclaimed to make more farming land available.
But the essential role of wetlands in providing valuable ecosystem services such as water purification of farm runoff, recycling nutrients, protecting land from flood damage and recharging groundwater aquifers (as well as offering recreation opportunities and supporting a rich diversity of wildlife) is now being acknowledged.
These days, there are successful agricultural practices that support healthy wetlands and World Wetlands Day was a chance to showcase farming families who are clearly demonstrating that protection of wetlands goes hand in hand with production from the land.
Rural Wetland Champion 2014
Combining good farming practices with proactive steps to look after the wetlands on their beef and dairy farm, has earned the Donald family in the Wairarapa the title of national 'Rural Wetland Champion for 2014'.
To celebrate World Wetlands Day 2014, the National Wetland Trust and the Department of Conservation (DOC) worked with regional councils around the country to find New Zealand's most wetland-friendly farming families.
The aim was to find a farming family where protection of wetlands is managed hand in hand with production from the land and, according to the judges, the Donald's farm alongside Lake Wairarapa and Big Haywards Lagoon just about ticked all the boxes for environmental best practice.
In nominating the award winners, the Wellington Regional Council stated that "The farm and integrated wetlands provide a show case for not just protecting biodiversity and water quality but enhancing it in a most practical and innovative way by clever land managers using agricultural tools.
"Areas of remnant native forest continue to be fenced off with a continuing programme of weed and animal pest control in and around the wetlands.
"The farming operation is strategic with the beef farming associated with the wetlands and lakeshore and the dairying occurring inland separated from the wetland complexes".
There is now abundant native wildlife, including the rare Australasian bittern (matuku), the first record of royal spoonbills (kōtuku ngutupapa) nesting in the Wairarapa, and the highest diversity of native fish species among wetlands in the area.
The Gilder family of Otago was highly commended for their work to protect wetlands on several Landcorp farms they manage at Paratai near Balclutha and for the way they involve their community and schools in the conservation work.
National Wetlands Symposium
This bi-annual event was held in Auckland from 10-12 February 2014 and brought together wetland scientists, managers, landowners and community organisations. Over 180 delegates enjoyed a range of topics including the link between wetlands and climate, coping with weather extremes when restoring wetlands and a special focus on urban wetlands and the role of constructed wetlands for stormwater and treatment.
There were at least 15 events held around the country to celebrate World Wetlands Day.
- Six schools participated in a wetland activity at Lake Ngatu near Kaitaia.
- There was a guided tour to learn more about the habitats and ecosystems of wetlands of the eastern Bay of Islands, with 28 participants.
- At Auckland there was a boat trip to Motutapu Island to weed a wetland, and the opportunity to explore a wetland on Waiheke Island.
- At Hamilton, 20 people potted wetland plants at a community nursery for future restoration planting.
- In the South Island, there was a good turnout of people keen to explore three of Marlborough's wetland treasures, while kayaking tours at Lake Wahapo and a boat trip to the Okarito Lagoon on the West Coast were fully subscribed.
- Christchurch held an event to celebrate regenerating wetlands in the city.