Ramsar Convention

In 1971, the value of wetland sites around the world was formally recognised at the signing of a Wetland Convention in the Iranian town of Ramsar. To date, this is the only international convention on an ecosystem type.

The anniversary of the Convention's signing is celebrated on World Wetlands Day, February 2nd every year. 

By 2014 there were 168 countries as signatories to the convention, with 2186 wetlands covering more than 200 million hectares designated as sites of international importance. 

The Ramsar definition of wetlands includes;

•    swamps and marshes
•    lakes and rivers
•    wet grasslands
•    peat bogs
•    oases
•    estuaries, deltas and tidal flats
•    coral reefs
•    human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs, and salt pans

The Ramsar Convention encourages the “wise use” of wetlands, so that they can be sustained economically, socially and environmentally. 

The Ramsar sites around the world acknowledge the flyways of migratory birds. Visits to New Zealand’s wetlands by migrating birds is a constant reminder of our global connections, with some birds travelling distances of 12 thousand kilometers non-stop from the Arctic. 

New Zealand has six Ramsar sites (internationally significant wetlands).

•    Farewell Spit at the top of the South Island

•    Firth of Thames in the Hauraki Gulf

•    Kopuatai Peat Dome on the Hauraki Plains

•    Manawatu Estuary near Foxton

•    Awarua Waituna Lagoon in Southland

•    Whangamarino wetland in the northern Waikato

The National Wetland Trust has produced a full colour booklet on 5 of our 6 Ramsar sites. It gives a snapshot of their main features, highlights some of the special wetland bird, plant and animal species, and includes stories of those who live, work and study around the wetlands. Maps of each wetland outline their distinctive characteristics and how to visit them. Or take a virtual tour of New Zealand's Ramsar sites on Google Earth.

Contact us for a copy of "Our Wet and Wild Places".  $10 per copy.

Download a factsheet on Ramsar sites by the Department of Conservation

In the pipeline..

Several other New Zealand sites are being investigated for listing including;

  • Avon-Heathcote Estuary in Christchurch
  • Mangarakau near Farewell Spit
  • Okarito Lagoon (home of the white heron colony) in South Westland
  • Lake Wairarapa near Wellington
  • Ohiwa Harbour in the Bay of Plenty
  • Kaipara Harbour north west of Auckland

The National Wetland Trust Ramsar committee has a key role in advising on suitable sites. 




Read a report on wetland management in New Zealand