Learn about the role of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in protecting wetlands areas around the world and how DOC is involved.

The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty that provide the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

The Convention on Wetlands is often referred to as the 'Ramsar Convention' as it was signed in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar, on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea; however its formal title is the 'Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat'.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is celebrated by World Wetlands Day on 2 February each year, marking the anniversary of its signing on 2 February 1971.

Obligations of parties

Parties to the Convention undertake:

  • to designate wetlands for inclusion on the List of Wetlands of International Importance;
  • to promote the significance of these wetlands and monitor and advise of any changes to their ecological character;
  • to promote the wise use of all wetlands, especially through formulating and implementing national policy on wetland conservation management;
  • to promote conservation of wetlands and waterfowl by establishing nature reserves on wetlands generally, to compensate for any loss of wetland resources of listed sites, encourage research, increase waterfowl populations and promote training in wetlands research, management and wardening;
  • to promote international co-operation in wetlands conservation, including the sharing of resources and expertise;
  • to be represented at Conferences of the Contracting Parties, to govern implementation of the Convention.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands requires contracting parties to submit regular reports to the Ramsar Secretariat on work that has been undertaken to implement the Convention and on the management of sites that have been listed as Wetlands of International Importance. The Department of Conservation takes a coordinating role in the preparation of these national reports.

Who administers the convention

The Department of Conservation is New Zealand's administrative authority for the Convention and also the manager of most of our current Ramsar wetlands of international importance.

Contact points

Contact with the Ramsar Secretariat is maintained at Head Office level but two Departmental staff act as national focal points for aspects of Ramsar activities.

Dr Hugh Robertson (Principal Science Advisor, Science and Policy based in Nelson) is the national focal point for the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP). The STRP is a subsidiary body of the Convention which provides scientific and technical guidance to the Conference of the parties, the Standing Committee and the Ramsar Secretariat.

STRP members are assisted in their work by a network of STRP national focus points. Hugh’s role is to advise on STRP matters and provide a liaison between the STRP and the networks of other relevant experts within New Zealand.

Jan Simmons (Volunteering Advisor, National Volunteering Team based in Hamilton) is the national government focal point for Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA). This outreach programme of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has been established to generate greater awareness about the functions, services and values of wetlands, to motivate people to care about wetlands and to build support for wetland conservation.

The outreach programme is intended to assist with implementation of an appropriate framework for actions in the communication, education and public awareness areas. Jan’s role is to act as the government contact point for wetland CEPA activities relating to wetlands nationally and to raise the profile or the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in New Zealand.

Further support

Kevin Hackwell, Conservation Manager, Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, Wellington, and Karen Denyer of the National Wetland Trust jointly share the non-government focal point for CEPA.

DOC's work is complemented by the policy advice on environmental management provided to Government by the Ministry for the Environment and the regional and district planning and administration of environmental legislation undertaken by regional and district councils. The provisions of the Resource Management Act 1991 generally govern the management of wetlands. Fish & Game New Zealand also provide support, including management of part of the Whangamarino wetland.

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