Joint statement from Forest & Bird and National Wetland Trust
This World Wetlands Day (February 2), Forest & Bird and the National Wetland Trust are highlighting that the majority of wetlands on private land around New Zealand remain unprotected.
A series of aerial images from around the country show examples of how freshwater wetlands (marked with a blue outline) on private land have completely or partially disappeared from 2001-2016.
“The images we’ve released are a few of many examples where wetlands are still being erased right under our noses,” says Forest & Bird Freshwater Advocate Annabeth Cohen.
“With more than 90 percent of New Zealand’s original wetlands already destroyed, what’s left is incredibly important.”
In 2007 the Ministry for the Environment identified the need to protect wetlands on private land as a national priority. The proposed National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, currently under consideration by the Minister for the Environment, is essential in setting stronger rules to protect our remaining wetlands.
The National Wetland Trust’s Executive Officer Karen Denyer says, “Most of our larger wetlands are in public ownership. However, the majority of wetlands in lowland agricultural landscapes that contribute to New Zealand biodiversity are in private ownership, and this is where the loss has been most significant.”
“Wetland destruction happens insidiously over time. It may start with a few access roads, followed by some drainage ditches, then a bit of vegetation clearance. Little by little our wetlands dry up and disappear,” says Cohen.
Half of our remaining wetlands are on private land, where they are most at risk of being cleared or drained, often to be opened for livestock. Since 2001, at least 13 percent of New Zealand's remaining freshwater wetlands have been damaged or destroyed. 
“We need this Government to implement strong rules to protect wetlands on private land.”
“We can have healthy wetlands full of native birds and fish, which protect our rivers and coast lines from the worst effects of climate change, if the Government gets smart and acts now.”
The aerial images are derived from a GIS data layer mapping wetland loss between 2001 and 2016, reported by Maanaki Whenua - Landcare Research and Ministry for the Environment in 2017.
National Wetland Trust and Forest & Bird are the two NGO partners associated with New Zealand’s Ramsar Convention
World Wetland Day marks the importance of wetlands internationally and was designated at the signing of the Ramsar Convention in Iran on 2 February 1971.
 Belliss, S, Shepherd, J, Newsome, P, & Dymond, J (2017). An analysis of wetland loss between 2001/02 and 2015/16. Landcare Research Contract Report LC2798 for the Ministry for the Environment.
- Since 2001, more than 15 percent of wetlands in Auckland, Waikato, Gisborne, Manawatu-Whanganui, Wellington, Marlborough, and Canterbury have been damaged or destroyed.
- Wellington has damaged the greatest proportion of its wetlands since 2001 (over 37 percent)
- West Coast is the largest wetland region in New Zealand, and has damaged the largest area of wetlands in hectares. Nearly 11,000 hectares have reduced in size since 2001.
- Canterbury has damaged the second largest area of wetlands since 2001. Nearly 6,000 hectares of wetlands have reduced in size.
- Both Waikato and Southland have damaged around 4,000 hectares of wetlands each since 2001.
Info on regions featured in images:
- Since 2001, seven percent of wetlands (just under 1,000 hectares) have been partially destroyed.
- Forest & Bird estimates that there are about 6,500 hectares (46 percent) of wetlands on private land.
- Since 2001, at least 20 percent of wetlands (just over 5,000 hectares) have been partially destroyed.
- Forest & Bird estimates that there are approximately 1,800 hectares (72 percent) of wetlands on private land.
- Since 2001, at least 15 percent of wetlands (just over 4,200 hectares) have been partially destroyed.
- Forest & Bird estimates that there are about 10,600 hectares (38 percent) of wetlands on private land.
- Since 2001, at least 37 percent of wetlands (1,000 hectares) have been partially destroyed.
- Forest & Bird estimates that there are about 1,600 hectares (57 percent) of wetlands on private land.
- Since 2001, at least 29 percent of wetlands (just over 5,800 hectares) have been partially destroyed.
- Forest & Bird estimates that there are about 9,200 hectares (48 percent) of wetlands on private land.
- Since 2001, at least 12 percent of wetlands (over 10,700 hectares) have been partially destroyed.
Forest & Bird estimates that there are about 12,100 hectares (14 percent) of wetlands on private land.