A new World Heritage site that may include parts of the Coromandel would help tiny New Zealand birds including godwits and red knots make their annual 12,000km journey to the Arctic.

Last week UNESCO's World Heritage Committee agreed that parts of China's Yellow Sea and the sanctuaries it provides for migratory birds will become a World Heritage site, including a proposal for a site in the Firth of Thames.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage welcomed the announcement during a visit to the Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre in the Firth of Thames today.

"New Zealanders care deeply about backing nature and backing birds like the godwits and red knots," Sage said in a statement.


"It's fantastic that the stopping points of shorebirds like the godwit and red knots on their annual flightpath from the Firth of Thames to Alaska are on track to have enhanced protection and recognition.

"These tiny birds – the godwit weighing only 300g to 600g and red knots a miniscule 100g – make this epic annual journey from Miranda to and from their Arctic breeding grounds with only one stop en route in China's Yellow Sea to feed."

The specific sites the birds use will be part of a Yellow Sea World Heritage proposal to be developed by China with support from other partners, including New Zealand, in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership.

The flyway for migratory birds extends from Awarua Bay in the south of New Zealand and crosses China on its way to the North Slope in Alaska.

An agreement signed in May will see the Department of Conservation and China's National Forestry and Grassland Administration work together to protect, manage and restore wetlands where red knots, godwits and other migratory shorebirds stop to feed during annual migrations.

Sage said that the Robert Findlay Reserve at Miranda was a significant local contribution to the conservation of migratory shorebird habitat in New Zealand.

"The reserve incorporates two of the most important high tide roosts for shorebirds in the Firth of Thames. Its creation is a real credit to the Pukorokoro Miranda Naturalist Trust, Waikato Regional Council and Foundation North."

The work being undertaken at the Firth of Thames is also being supported by work at other internationally important shorebird sites such as the Avon Heathcote Ihutai Estuary.


The Government is also actively developing new rules and practices to improve the water quality in our rivers and streams.

This will have a direct impact on the coastal wetlands that knots and godwits use as non-breeding areas in New Zealand and help secure their long-term survival.