Wetlands: Prized Land Not Wasteland

27 Feb 2018 by The Million Metres team Auckland Council Auckland

Viewed by many as worthless swamps – wetlands are anything but.

Healthy wetlands are nature’s sponges. They soak up water during floods and release it during droughts. They trap carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere. They improve water quality by removing contaminants from fresh water on its journey to the ocean. They act as nurseries, supporting a huge diversity of birds, insects and fish.

But over the years they’ve been dumped in, drained and filled to make way for development and agriculture.

Many of New Zealand’s major cities were built on swamps, including Christchurch and Invercargill. The Hauraki plains were nothing but bogs, swamps, estuaries and lagoons before it was drained for agriculture.

Today, 90% of New Zealand’s historic wetlands have been lost. Click here to view maps based on historic soil analysis. They show the extent of wetland loss since human settlement began, and the few remnants left.

New Zealand signed the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 1976.  The international treaty provides the framework for preventing, stopping and reversing the global decline of wetlands. This requires New Zealand to report on work being undertaken to restore and manage the country’s most important wetland sites.

Six wetlands have been placed on Ramsar’s Convention list of wetlands of international importance. These include the Firth of Thames, Whangamarino and Kopuatai peat Dome in Waikato, Farewell Spit in Nelson, Awarua wetland Lagoon in Southland and Manawatu River Estuary. The Arawai Kākāriki wetland programme led by the Department of Conservation was set up in 2006 to protect and restore several of these sites.

But if New Zealand is going to make significant progress in restoring its wetlands we need everyone involved.

Currently, there are three wetland projects live on the Million Metres website. By donating to any of the three you’ll be playing an important part in the story of how New Zealanders can come together to restore our wetlands.


Matuku Link – Waitakere

Matuku Link is home to rare wetland birds, as well as native bats – New Zealand’s only native land mammal. $18,750 is needed to plant 3,270 native plants and trees. So far more than $7,257 has been donated.

In addition to its restoration planting work, Matuku Link is developing a Wetland Education Centre. 


Big Bay Pond – Awhitu Peninsular

The Blake's have owned their farm on Awhitu Peninsular for 18 years. It covers a 2km coastline on the Manukau Harbour. For the last two years they have been trying to do their part to improve the quality of the waterways that run off their farm and into the harbour.

$5,820 is needed to plant 1,350 native plants and trees around a pond. So far $4,626 has been fundraised.


Mill Stream – Warkworth

Mill Stream flows into the Mahurangi River before entering the Hauraki Gulf. It hosts a number ‘at-risk’ species including long-fin eel, koura, freshwater mussels and native fish such as banded kokopu.

$36,210 is needed to plant 8,000 plants and trees. So far $3,890 has been fundraised.