Global Connections. Foxton, NZ

Bar-tailed GodwitPhoto Credit: Andreas Trepte

At a recent work gathering, we were told about a site in the Manawatu-Wanganui Region of international significance. A so-called Ramsar site located at Foxton Beach, roughly two hours north of New Zealand’s capital, Wellington. Apparently the name Ramsar comes from the city where a conference was held to decide on these internationally significant sites – along the same lines as the Kyoto Protocol of which we often hear.

This particular site is the southern migratory destination of the Bar-tailed Godwit which makes the journey from sites located in Mongolia, Siberia, and Alaska in the Northern Hemisphere. What makes this all the more special is the fact that these birds are not sea-birds; meaning that – while they have a single stop off on their journey between these sites – they have no feeding ground along the way. Approximately 90,000 birds make this journey twice each year (although, there are other species of migratory birds that can also be found at this site).

Work is being undertaken at each location to maintain the site, and control other predatory wildlife to protect the Bar-tailed Godwit and its habitat. We were fortunate enough to witness some of the pest-control initiatives underway at Foxton Beach.

Horizons Regional Council, which oversees the environmental protection across the Manawatu-Wanganui Region, runs various plant and animal pest control programs. Animal pests include possum, stoat, weasel, ferret and rat species. The Mustelid varieties are the focus of attention at this Ramsar site.

The work underway at Foxton Beach includes some new initiatives designed to engage the community in a much more tangible and long-lasting way. This initiative, in a large part, owes its origins to the work of John Girling from the Wildlife Foxton Trust1. John approached Horizons Regional Council via its public submission process. Within six weeks, Horizons and the Wildlife Foxton Trust had begun work within the community, engaging volunteers to manage set traps, and working with Foxton Beach School.

The work with the school involves pupils “adopting” a trap, designing and painting a message on it, and keeping a tally of what pests have been trapped in it. The innovation here is three-fold:

  • Decorative traps are less likely to be accidentally run-over or destroyed
  • School pupils involvement should reduce the likely of traps being vandalised (hopefully piquing the conscience of would-be vandals because children are involved)
  • Pupils have increased awareness of the natural value of their community’s environment

In learning about all of this, it struck me that – even in these times of increased ‘connectedness’ at a global level – there are far flung places across our planet that have been connected, in the natural world, for thousands of years. It’s heartening to see communities and local government working together to protect these key habitats. Huge props to all involved.

This is true global connectivity.


  1. Donations to Wildlife Foxton Trust can be made via their website. I have no affiliation with Wildlife Foxton Trust. 
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