NZ’s na­tive bird sit­u­a­tion ‘des­per­ate’


New Zealand’s na­tive bird species are in a ‘‘des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion’’ and more must be done to stop their de­cline, the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mis­sioner for the En­vi­ron­ment says.

About 80 per cent of na­tive bird species were in trou­ble and some were at risk of ex­tinc­tion, Dr Jan Wright said in a new re­port.

Her re­port, Taonga of an Is­land Na­tion: Sav­ing New Zealand’s Birds, makes seven rec­om­men­da­tions to the Govern­ment.

Among them is to in­ves­ti­gate im­pos­ing a levy on tourists to bet­ter fund con­ser­va­tion work. She urged an ac­tion plan for wide­spread preda­tor con­trol and bet­ter co-or­di­na­tion of vol­un­teer groups.

New Zealand has 168 na­tive bird species, 93 of which are en­demic, found nowhere else. The United King­dom, for com­par­i­son, has one en­demic bird.

A third of all na­tive birds were in ‘‘se­ri­ous trou­ble’’ and nearly half ‘‘in some trou­ble’’. Only one in five species was do­ing OK, Wright said.

She said some of our most unique en­demic birds – kea, wry­bill, and whio – were se­ri­ously threat­ened.

The great­est pres­sures came from in­tro­duced preda­tors such as pos­sums, stoats, rats and feral cats. Preda­tor con­trol mea­sures such as 1080 poi­son were ef­fec­tive and made a se­ri­ous dif­fer­ence, but came at a high cost.

Re­coup­ing money for bio­di­ver­sity was vi­tal. She re­com- mended the Govern­ment in­vesti- gate a na­ture levy.

‘‘It kind of re­in­forces the idea that this is why peo­ple come here. Wilder­ness is be­com­ing scarcer and scarcer world­wide – and with scarcity comes value,’’ she said.

‘‘When it comes to bio­di­ver­sity, if you haven’t got enough money, you just don’t do stuff. I worry as this tourist pres­sure grows, more of that money goes to­wards in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vices than pre­serv­ing what they came to see.’’

The Govern­ment’s Preda­tor Free 2050 goal was com­mend­able, but it came with lit­tle de­tail. It re­lied on tech­no­log­i­cal break­throughs and, while the sci­ence was promis­ing, it may in­volve sen­si­tive is­sues such as ge­netic en­gi­neer­ing.

‘‘We can­not wait for long-term break­through sci­ence be­fore step­ping up preda­tor con­trol. If we do, the pa­tient will die be­fore the hos­pi­tal is built.’’


Kea, the world’s only alpine par­rot and among the most in­tel­li­gent known bird species, is in trou­ble.

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