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Published: 2002-01-31 00:00:00

Several groups are coming together at Lake Ngaroto tomorrow to sign an agreement to protect and restore the threatened Waipa peat lakes and wetlands.

Environment Waikato, Waipa District Council, the Department of Conservation, Auckland/Waikato Fish and Game Council and Ngaa Iwi Toopu O Waipa representatives are signing the Waipa Peat Lakes and Wetlands Accord, aimed at co-ordinating management of restoration and enhancement of the area’s the lakes and wetlands.

The lakes are the largest group of peat lake habitat in New Zealand and are valuable refuges for many unique plant and animal species. They are under threat from intensive land use around their margins, and nutrients and drainage are damaging them. Environment Waikato freshwater ecologist Grant Barnes said the accord was developed because ad hoc decision making by the different agencies involved might prevent their proper management.

The accord was designed to promote the sustainable use and conservation of lake and wetland resources by developing local management projects, supporting regional and national policies and action plans, and international conventions. It recognises their ecological, scientific, recreational and aesthetic value and promotes integrated management through development of effective partnerships.

In time other interested groups, including community groups, business firms and individuals would also sign it, he said.

The accord would encourage restoration of degraded lakes and wetlands, and maintain an overview of their status by co-ordinating assessment and monitoring programmes and sending out results.

It would also develop a regional network of experts and raise awareness of the functions and values of lakes and wetlands through education, information and awareness programmes.
Tomorrow’s signing ceremony is open to the public and will take place at the Lake Ngaroto Boat Club at 10am. Participants will then be able to take a walk around the lake to view the restoration works already underway.

The signing is part of World Wetlands Day celebrations which are on Saturday, February 2. Other activities in the Waikato include the launch of a National Wetland Centre at Rangiriri, and a media tour of the Waikato’s at risk wetlands.

Nationally, New Zealand has less than 10 percent of its wetlands left. Between 1954 and 1976, 12,000 hectares of wetlands were being lost each year – a total of 263,999 hectares. Until the mid 1980s farmers were encouraged to drain wetlands by Government subsidies and the country’s original freshwater wetlands declined from 672,000 hectares to 100,000 hectares in the mid 1970s.