Report: TR 2008/15
Author: B. Brownell, J. Dahm and M. Graeme
The Muddy Feet project provides a framework for coordinated action to identify and address risks to the southern and south-western coast and intertidal zone of the Firth of Thames, an area recognised as an internationally important wetland under the Ramsar Convention. It is ranked as one of New Zealand's three most important areas for shorebirds and annually hosts more than 49 different migratory bird species, numbering some 20,000 individuals. The Ramsar site is potentially vulnerable to activities occurring in surrounding marine and land environments including drainage from approximately 175,000 ha of catchment.
‘Muddy Feet’ is a joint effort by Environment Waikato; Auckland Regional Council; Thames-Coromandel, Hauraki and Franklin district councils; the Department of Conservation; the Ministry of Fisheries; local iwi and the Miranda Naturalists’ Trust. The project also has support from the Hauraki Gulf Forum, the Hauraki Maori Trust Board and Matamata-Piako District Council. The project was initiated in 1998 by Ecoquest Education Foundation and was funded by grants from the Environmental Initiatives Fund (Environment Waikato), Hauraki District Council and Thames-Coromandel District Council, along with other forms of support from the Department of Conservation (Auckland and Waikato conservancies), Auckland Regional Council and Waikato District Council.
The Muddy Feet project has highlighted issues of habitat loss and degradation that potentially pose a serious threat to the values of the internationally important Ramsar wetland and immediate environs in the southern Firth of Thames. Phase I of the project focused on current knowledge of the Ramsar site and the surrounding marine environment. Phase II has focused on clarifying risks to the site and identifying management gaps that need to be addressed.
This report presents a summary of the management gaps identified from Phase II of the project. In particular it outlines and prioritises critical actions that are required to reduce key risks to the Ramsar site, and also identifies critical gaps that need to be addressed through on-the-ground action now (that is, action in and around the Ramsar site). Those actions that require a longer term focus (for example, new research, policy changes and broader catchment actions) are also addressed.
It is clear from preceding work and the gap analysis that:
The gap analysis has also highlighted a paucity of information with regard to the various habitats in the southern Firth of Thames and a need for a more holistic ecosystem approach to management of this area, including baseline investigations to identify the current values and community characteristics, ongoing monitoring to detect any significant change and attention to cumulative effects. There is an overarching need to develop a general ecosystem understanding, including an ability to identify and address cumulative effects.
Identified gaps have been divided into two groups based on priorities and practicalities.
Priorities were assessed based on the practicality and achievability of the recommended actions, the timelines likely to be required and the effectiveness of the action in addressing key threats and reversing existing trends for degradation. Prioritisation of the actions was based on both expert judgment and discussions with representatives of the various management agencies and community groups.
High priority actions have been further divided into three groups.
Priorities and Related Actions for the Sustainable Management of the Firth of Thames Ramsar Site
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|1.2||Purpose of the project||2|
|2||Structure of report||4|
|3||Habitat loss and degradation||6|
|3.3||Predation and browsing||9|
|3.4||Human recreation and disturbance||10|
|3.6||Drainage, infilling and associated land uses||12|
|Appendix A: Linkages to other projects in the southern firth and catchments||31|