Wetlands were once a widespread feature of the landscape within the lower Waikato Basin and Hauraki Plains but today, less than 20 percent of the original freshwater wetlands remain.
On the Hauraki Plains, wetlands are restricted to areas associated with the Piako and Waihou Rivers and the peat domes at Torehape and Kopuatai; in the Lower Waikato Basin there is a mosaic of shallow lakes and mineralised swamps all connected to the Waikato River, while the Hamilton Basin has a unique assemblage of peat lakes and remnant peat domes.
Two of these - Whangamarino and Kopuatai Peat Dome - are freshwater wetlands and the Firth of Thames is tidal. They are listed under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, an international treaty administered by the Ramsar Secretariat hosted by the World Conservation Union
Firth of Thames
Firth of Thames is a wetland of international significance. The site includes shallow estuarine water and mudflats, shell banks, grass flats, mangrove forest, saltmarsh and limited freshwater swamp margins.
The shell banks between Miranda and Kaiaua are an example of a Chenier plain, a unique landform rare globally.
The Firth of Thames is one of New Zealand's three most important coastal stretches for shorebirds.
Kopuatai Peat Dome
Kopuatai Peat Dome at 10,201ha, is the largest unaltered restiad peat bog in New Zealand and is also unique globally.
The area is gazetted as a Wetland Management Reserve under the Conservation Act 1987.
Whangamarino wetland (Waikato)
The second largest bog and swamp complex in the North Island is an outstanding site for promoting the value of wetlands and species conservation
On 1 February 2002, the Waipa Peat Lakes and Wetlands Accord was signed, ratifying a commitment by Environment Waikato, Waipa District Council, Auckland/Waikato Fish and Game Council, Iwi and Department of Conservation to work together to “promote the sustainable use and conservation of lake and wetland resources by developing and implementing relevant local management projects, regional and national policies and action plans and international conventions”.
As part of this joint approach, the agencies are involved in encouraging the restoration of lakes and wetlands and raising the awareness of the functions and values of wetlands through education, information and awareness programmes.