International recognition of Wairarapa Moana celebrated in Conservation Week

  • Hon Eugenie Sage

The North Island’s third largest wetland ecosystem has been approved as a Wetland of International Importance, Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage announced today.


The 10,000 hectares of wetland and open water that comprise Wairarapa Moana have been granted this status by the Ramsar Wetland Convention. It aims to raise the profile of wetlands in response to the continuing loss of these important habitats across the globe.


“Wairarapa Moana has become Aotearoa New Zealand’s seventh wetland to receive this international recognition.  Wetlands are integral to the health of the land, waterways, plants and wildlife because of the crucial ecosystem services they provide. Wairarapa Moana wetland is home to 96 bird species, 25 native fish species, and countless plant species.


Eugenie Sage was joined by iwi and community members at a Conservation Week event at Lake Onoke, celebrating the Moana and the work of those who have championed the conservation of the


“It’s also clear that the Wairarapa Moana also has incredible value to people. The name ‘Wairarapa’ itself refers to the wetland’s glistening waters. Recognising this site as globally significant is an excellent way to raise the Moana’s profile and remind everyone of its worth.


“I warmly congratulate the Wairarapa iwi, community groups and organisations that have championed this kaupapa. Ramsar status not only recognises the value of the wetland but also the community efforts to restore and protect the site.”


International recognition comes at a perfect time, with the Wairarapa Moana Wetlands project and wider Ruamāhanga Catchment recently receiving a $6 million investment from central government’s Jobs for Nature programme and $4 million investment from Greater Wellington Regional Council.


“The focus of Conservation Week this year is on wellbeing and seeing nature though new eyes. Wairarapa Moana is a relatively accessible wetland, and its many short walks and impressive biodiversity make it a perfect place to immerse yourself in nature. I would encourage people to take the time to visit and really look at what’s here,” she said.


“Nature is fantastic for our wellbeing, and when we take the time to care, that can be fantastic for nature’s wellbeing too.”


New Zealand has lost 90 percent of wetlands and many of those remaining are threatened by development and poor water quality.


Recognition as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention means New Zealand must manage this wetland to protect the values that it currently has, monitor them and report periodically to the convention. 


For more information about Wairarapa Moanasee


About the Ramsar Convention


The Ramsar Convention was formed in 1971 in the Iranian town of Ramsar on the Caspian Sea to recognise wetlands of international significance. The convention was formed to raise the profile of wetlands in response to the continuing loss of these important habitats across the globe, particularly those on the flight path of migratory birds.


There are six other Ramsar recognised sites in New Zealand - Firth of Thames in the Hauraki Gulf, Kopuatai Peat Dome on the Hauraki Plains, Whangamarino wetland in the northern Waikato, Manawatu Estuary near Foxton, Farewell Spit at the top of the South Island, and Awarua Waituna Lagoon in Southland.


Wairarapa Moana is managed collaboratively by the Wairarapa Moana Wetlands Group made up of representatives from Rangitāne o Wairarapa, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, hapū, Greater Wellington Regional Council, South Wairarapa District Council and the Department of Conservation.


Groups driving conservation work at Wairarapa Moana include hapū and whānau, Ducks Unlimited, Forest and Bird, Fish and Game, South Wairarapa Biodiversity Group, and Friends of Ōnoke Spit, among others.