Celebrate World Wetlands Day and help protect a treasured environment

Today, 2 February, is World Wetlands Day. If you want to help form a better picture of a treasured environment and celebrate biodiversity, then sign up for the upcoming Bioblitz at Muriwai o Whata/Coopers Lagoon.

Along with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and Te Taumutu Rūnanga, we are celebrating wetlands and biodiversity with a Bioblitz event on Saturday 18 March.

A Bioblitz is a communal citizen-science effort to record as many species within a designated location and time period as possible.

The event will provide a snapshot of the environment, helping us protect and enhance this important area. Join the search for flora and fauna alongside subject matter experts sharing their knowledge.

Why is it an important site?

Muriwai o Whata and the surrounding area is culturally significant for Te Taumutu Rūnanga, descendants of the great ancestors Ruahikihiki and his son Moki.

For Taumutu, Muriwai o Whata is the spiritual home of tuna/eels. Pūrākau/mythology refers to Muriwai o Whata being the first home of Tuna, who descended from the heavens as it was too dry and arid near the sun. Tuna resided in the hapua/lagoon for several years until one day he offended a local wahine.

Because of the offence, the locals were angry and set about to catch and kill Tuna, which they did. They cut Tuna up and cast his body parts into the ocean. These body parts then turned into different species of eels; such as the head of Tuna, which became the conger eel, and the tail became the lamprey.

What will we see?

Tuna/eel, kēkēwai/crayfish, pātiki/flounder and kōtuku ngutupapa/spoonbill are just some of the unique wildlife known to live in the area.

We will be using iNaturalist to capture the observations on the day. iNaturalist is an easy-to-use app where observations with signs of organisms at a particular time and location can be recorded. Every observation can contribute to biodiversity science globally through the iNaturalist app.

Our principal biodiversity advisor for wetlands, Jason Butt, said Muriwai o Whata is a treasured environment, but one that is not fully understood yet.

"We have a lot of gaps in our knowledge about what is actually here, in terms of plant species in particular. To inform our actions and next steps, we really want to start filling those gaps. Filling those gaps will help us understand what’s here, and the food webs that exist currently.

"We have all this open water, which has aquatic plants in it, but it’s also really important for invertebrates, fish, and birds," he said.

"There are lots of birds that have been recorded on the lagoon. You often see kotuku and royal spoonbills here. So, there’s a great mix of waterfowl and wading birds as well, pied stilts and the like.

"It’s a fantastic place and I recommend it to everyone. On a nice sunny day, looking out to sea, it’s just the most tranquil place," he said.

Event details

When: Saturday 18 March 2023, 10am to 5pm.

Where: On-site at Muriwai o Whata/Coopers Lagoon. Located on Mcevedys Road, within the Selwyn District, just south of Taumutu. RSVP is essential, to events@ecan.govt.nz by 15 March.

Bring: Sturdy shoes; drink bottle; plan for all weather with appropriate clothing, a raincoat and sunscreen. Bring binoculars or a magnifier if you have one. BBQ lunch will be provided – tea and coffee will be on-site.

Make sure to sign up to iNaturalist and bring your device. Please note that the area has uneven terrain and may not be suitable for people with mobility difficulties.