Worthy of celebration
Manawatu was once covered by wetland forest and swamp. With European colonisation most of these wetlands were drained for farming; stop banks were built in an attempt to stop rivers changing course, and nature was generally modified to suit the needs of the day.
These days, many of us still ignore wetlands or think of them as wastelands. Wetlands however, are hugely valuable and have many important functions. Over one billion people worldwide depend on wetlands for livelihoods such as fishing and aquaculture.
The importance of wetlands as filters of harmful waste is now acknowledged. They not only provide clean freshwater but have a critical role as nature’s sponges, absorbing rainfall and reducing flood impacts.
Wetlands, including areas alongside streams and rivers, also provide homes to many of our native plants and animals. They are of special cultural and spiritual significance to Maori as well as important for food gathering and for other materials such as harakeke (flax). They also have great recreational value. Recognising this, communities throughout New Zealand are working together to clean up rivers and create wetlands.
Our region has lots of unique accessible wetlands open to the public, each with its own distinctive features. The Manawatu Estuary at Foxton Beach, a haven for migratory birds, is one of only six wetlands of international importance (known as ‘Ramsar’ sites) in New Zealand. Pukepuke Lagoon, near Tangimoana, is a beautiful tranquil dune lake. Within Palmerston North there are restored wetlands handy to city residents at Edwards Pit Park in Roslyn and at the Ashhurst Domain.
Every year there is a worldwide celebration of wetlands to mark the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands which was signed on February 2, 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar.
Find out more about wetlands, including ones you can visit in this and other regions, at doc.govt.nz/nature/habitats/wetlands
Sunrise at Pukepuke Lagoon near Tangimoana, one of the region’s many accessible and picturesque wetlands worth visiting, especially in the followon from February’s World Wetlands Day.