Bridging Knowledge for Wetland RestorationInsights from the 2024 National Wetland Restoration Symposium

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In April, the Northland Regional Council, the Department of Conservation, and the QEII National Trust, organised the first post-COVID-19 National Wetland Restoration Symposium. Held at the Copthorne Hotel in Paihia, the symposium served as a melting pot for numerous stakeholders united by a common cause: the restoration and preservation of wetlands.

Over three days, the symposium provided a platform for community groups, landowners, iwi, scientists, wetland managers, and students to converge and exchange ideas on wetland restoration. The agenda was diverse, encompassing field trips, practical training sessions, soapbox discussions, and presentations from both seasoned professionals and passionate enthusiasts.

Central to the symposium were discussions around the indispensable role of wetlands in providing ecosystem services crucial for sustaining life across the region. However, the threat of climate change could not be ignored and there was much discussion about the actions that could be taken to help preserve and recreate wetland ecosystems.

Session themes covered various topics, as well as the impact of climate change on wetlands, there were presentations on iwi-led wetland restoration and re-creation projects underpinned by Mātauranga Māori, offering a greater insight into the cultural values of wetlands. Dr Virginia Moreno and Helen Jamieson, representing The Forest Bridge Trust, found the symposium profoundly insightful. Virginia highlighted the importance of engaging people and landowners in wetland restoration efforts and nurturing a deeper appreciation for these ecosystems. The welcoming pōwhiri held at Te Whare Rūnanga, treaty grounds, left a lasting impression on both Virginia and Helen, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose.

The Forest Bridge Trust ecologist Virginia Moreno was particularly pleased to see through the presentations several instances where Western science embraced Mātauranga Māori, and where tangata whenua and mana whenua are also embracing Western science. “There were clear examples of how it doesn’t have to be one or the other,” remarked Virginia “We can inform and complement each other for better outcomes”.

The 2024 National Wetland Restoration Symposium served as a beacon of hope, uniting stakeholders from varied backgrounds in a collective endeavour to safeguard and rejuvenate wetlands. By embracing diversity, fostering collaboration, and bridging traditional and modern knowledge systems, the symposium paved the way for innovative approaches towards wetland restoration. As we navigate the challenges posed by climate change, initiatives like these offer glimpses of a sustainable future where wetlands thrive, nourishing both ecosystems and communities alike.