Our wetlands need our help to do their job – World Wetlands Day 2021

“Wetlands are a precious taonga and must be protected, preserved and restored,” Environment Minister David Parker said today on World Wetlands Day.  

Wetlands filter out unhealthy and damaging substances, and act as buffers for flooding, as nutrient cyclers, water purifiers and as important carbon sinks. 

In addition, wetlands provide vital habitat for a diverse range of endemic flora and fauna, including critically endangered birds like matuku and kotuku, as well as 67 per cent of freshwater and estuarine fish species and 13 per cent of nationally threatened plant species. 

“Wetlands play a central role in our freshwater system but are extremely fragile. The job for us is to make sure our wetlands can continue to survive, thrive and support a healthy environment for all New Zealanders. 

“The value of wetlands has not always been recognised, and many were drained for housing and development, and other land uses. As a result 90 per cent of our wetlands have been lost. 

“We have put in place the Essential Freshwater package of regulatory reforms which aims to stop further degradation, show material improvements within five years and restore our waterways to health within a generation. Strong wetland protection and measures to encourage regeneration are a key part of this,” David Parker said. 

Funding, through the Government’s Jobs for Nature programme, is supporting the implementation of the new regulations and the restoration and protection of wetlands around the country. 

In 2020 the Government committed more than $64 million from Jobs for Nature towards council projects, many of which involve wetland restoration. This includes the Opuatia Wetlands Project in Waikato and the Wairarapa Moana Wetlands project. 

“The Government is committed to strong protection for our wetlands to recognise the valuable role they play and the large-scale loss of wetlands due to human activity.” 

The most up to date information on the state of our wetlands can be found in Our freshwater 2020.

Editor’s note: In 2020 the Government released the Essential Freshwater package which is a collection of national regulations to protect and improve all waterbodies, including wetlands. The package comprises: 

  • The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 (NPS-FM 2020) includes new direction to regional councils to avoid the loss of extent of natural inland wetlands, protect their values and promote their restoration.
  • The new regulations in the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater (NES) place restrictions on activities in and near natural wetlands, including coastal wetlands that will damage or destroy them. Certain activities are allowed but only where effects are managed in the following way: firstly avoided, minimised or remedied, with offsetting applied such as restoration/creation elsewhere on a ‘like for like’ basis.
  • The Resource Management (Stock Exclusion) Regulations 2020 mandate that certain stock must be excluded from natural wetlands in certain circumstances.

 Further detail can be found here: https://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/fresh-water/essential-freshwater-wetlands-factsheet