World heritage sites
World heritage sites are designated by UNESCO under the World Heritage Convention, which provides for the protection of places that are of outstanding universal value. New Zealand has three:
- Te Wāhipounamu – South West New Zealand
- Tongariro National Park
- the Subantarctic Islands.
Te Wāhipounamu – South West New Zealand
This vast wilderness covers 2.6 million hectares of the south-west of the South Island (about 10% of New Zealand). Te Wāhipounamu was listed in 1990, and is considered one of the world’s foremost natural world heritage sites. It contains plants and animals that existed when New Zealand was part of the ancient Gondwana supercontinent, and has outstanding mountains, fiords and glaciers.
Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park is one of a very few places in the world to be listed as a world heritage site for both natural and cultural significance. It was listed in 1990 for its outstanding volcanic features, and again in 1993 as a cultural landscape of great importance to the Ngāti Tūwharetoa tribe.
Keeping a wetland wet
The Whangamarino wetland, in the Waikato, is the second largest bog and swamp complex in the North Island. During the 20th century its water levels were threatened by flood protection and hydroelectricity schemes on the Waikato River. In response, a rock rubble weir was built on the Whangamarino River in 1994. It helps re-create a seasonal cycle of water levels to maintain the wetland’s health.
New Zealand’s subantarctic islands consist of the Snares, Auckland, Antipodes, Bounty and Campbell Island groups, and have a total area of 76,480 hectares. These remote and largely untouched islands, with their significant seabird and marine mammal populations, were listed as a world heritage site in 1998 because of their international importance for biodiversity. The islands’ plants and animals evolved in the complete absence of land mammals and browsing land birds.
Wetlands of international importance
The Ramsar Convention recognises wetlands of international importance, and promotes their wise use. New Zealand has six wetlands of international importance, covering about 40,000 hectares:
- Farewell Spit (upper South Island)
- Firth of Thames (at the base of the Coromandel Peninsula)
- Kopuatai Peat Dome (Waikato)
- Waituna Lagoon (Southland)
- Whangamarino Swamp (Waikato)
- Manawatū River estuary.