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Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

5 March 2003

Australian Expert to Head International Wetlands Body

Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today welcomed the appointment of Australian, Dr Peter Bridgewater, as the next Secretary-General of the Ramsar Convention Bureau.

"I am delighted to hear Dr Bridgewater is the first Australian expert to be appointed Secretary-General of the Ramsar Convention Bureau. This is a very distinguished post and Dr Bridgewater's appointment reflects the respect and recognition he has at an international level," Minister Kemp said.

The broad aim of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands - established in the Iranian city called Ramsar in 1971 - is to stop the worldwide loss of wetlands and conserve those that remain through wise use and management. This involves maintaining the natural properties of their ecosystem.

"Wetlands are vital to Australia. They protect our shores from wave action, reduce the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and provide habitat for animals and plants," Dr Kemp said.

"Wetlands are also critical to Australia's commercial and recreational fishing industries and many have historical significance and cultural value."

Dr Kemp said Australia is a well-respected and long-standing party to the Ramsar Convention and has an excellent record in conserving Australian sites that are of international significance.

"We were one of the first signatories to the Convention and now have 63 Ramsar sites in Australia. The very first Ramsar site listed under the Convention was Coburg Peninsular in the Northern Territory," he said.

"In 1996, Australia also hosted the 25th anniversary of the Convention in Brisbane, of which Dr Bridgewater was president of the Conference of the Contracting Parties at that meeting.

"Dr Bridgewater has a wealth of experience and skill to continue the good work taking place under the Ramsar Convention and help meet its objective in protecting wetlands as the new Secretary General.

"His international experience crosses a range of environmental areas such as his current position as Secretary of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Program and former positions as Chair and Vice-Chair of the Standing Committee on Migratory Species, Vice Chair and Chair of the International Whaling Commission, and the Convention on Biological Diversity to name a few.

"He was also an innovative and highly effective operator in Australia and a strong advocate for participatory management of protected areas by Indigenous people, in particular Kakadu National Park which is also a Ramsar site.

"I wish Dr Bridgewater great success in his new position. I am sure he will be a great asset to the Ramsar Convention and will make a significant contribution to its future agenda."

Dr Bridgewater will take up his new post in August 2003.

Media Contact:
Catherine Job (Dr Kemp's office) 02 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia