ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

An exploration of community perceptions about wetland health in New Zealand (2011-2014)

Strategic Research Area

Sustainable water


ILWS PhD scholarship

Investigators/ Researchers

Abbie Spiers, PhD candidate. Supervisors: Prof Max Finlayson (principal), Associate Prof Rosemary Black


This project will explore community perceptions about wetland health in New Zealand (NZ). While many of NZ's wetlands have been destroyed, there is now increasing interest in managing wetlands more effectively, and creating or restoring wetlands to replace those that have been lost. Issues can arise when individuals/groups working to improve and to manage wetlands have different perceptions of what is a 'healthy wetland'. This can result in people undertaking management efforts that are ineffective, inefficient, or inappropriate.

This project explores the perceptions of wetland health among individuals/groups who are actively managing wetlands, influencing the management of wetlands and/or influencing public opinion on wetland health. Key decision makers, academics, opinion leaders, indigenous leaders and community groups are being interviewed about their perceptions of wetland health. Available information on wetland health and threats will be analysed as part of this study, and consideration given to the biophysical condition of NZ wetlands and the relationship with community perceptions.


Conference presentation, National Wetland Trust, National Wetland Symposium, Invercargill, March 2012

NZ Wetlands 

Only 10% of NZ wetlands remain. (Photo: AG Spiers)


This project will provide information about what is meant by the term 'healthy wetland'; how wetland managers' perceptions converge/differ; the words being used to describe wetland health; management activities currently being undertaken to improve wetland health; and what managers think is needed to better manage NZ wetlands in the future. These outcomes will help wetland managers and decision makers to better understand the perceptions of this sector of the community and potentially improve communication about wetland health. This research has international relevance and the Secretariat for the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has expressed interest in circulating an information paper of the project outcomes to its 160 member countries.

Abbie Spiers
Charles Sturt University

May 2013