The 11th INTECOL International Wetlands Conference (IWC) which was set to be the first event taking place in the new Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre is now being held this week as a fully virtual conference.
Christchurch successfully won the bid to host the prestigious international conference on wetland conservation in 2020, but due to Covid‐19 restrictions, it was postponed to October 2021. The decision was then made last month to transition IWC from a hybrid to a fully virtual event due to ongoing Covid‐ 19 restrictions.
Approximately 500 delegates from 30 countries are attending the four‐day virtual conference to discover and explore a modern city that has evolved around a wetland, and the re‐creation and/or restoration of wetlands in Canterbury. The conferences aim to increase awareness and appreciation of the importance of wetlands for sustaining New Zealand landscapes and their people, along with promoting traditional ecological knowledge, including Mātauranga Māori as an essential component of wetland restoration and management.
The conference programme has over 260 scientific and academic papers being presented, and features a film premiere, virtual wetland field trips, a virtual exhibition, and a display at Tūranga ‐ Christchurch’s central library is available until February 2022, showcasing precious taonga and celebrating the special relationship Ngāi Tahu has with wetlands. The display is kindly sponsored by Ngāi Tahu, one of the four partners who joined INTECOL for the conference.
Local ecologist and wetland expert, Dr Philippe Gerbeaux from the Department of Conservation is one of the driving forces behind IWC.
Dr Philippe Gerbeaux, ecologist and wetland expert, Department of Conservation
Going virtual is not quite what we had envisaged, but we have remained optimistic and we’re excited about our first fully virtual experience
Local Professional Conference Organiser, Conference Innovators (CI) has led and coordinated the Conference. “We accepted in early 2021 that no distant overseas attendees could attend the conference. However, we remained hopeful that the Trans‐Tasman bubble would remain in place. This bubble burst in late July. Then New Zealand entered lockdown in August putting restrictions back in place for events and gatherings,” says Conference Project Manager, Charlotte Emery.
Emery adds, “It’s been a busy few months transitioning IWC from a hybrid to a fully virtual event, but we wanted to ensure attendees still had the opportunity to come together to connect and network. This virtual experience will generate some good discussions and outcomes on sustainability practices for existing wetlands and how to re‐develop wetland areas where they can protect us against floods and pollution.”
CI with the valued support of their digital partner Multi‐Media Systems, have held over 40 hybrid and virtual events, and continue to lead the way with their virtual event solutions. “In light of global events, it’s about ensuring our clients can continue to connect and be just as engaged as the onsite audience and essentially, receive the same high‐quality event experience,” says Tracey Thomas, Director of Conference Innovators.