Wor­thy of cel­e­bra­tion

The Tribune (NZ) - - ENVIRONMENT - SARAH GAL­LEY,

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.

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