Cr Mike Finlayson Green action needed now
The release of the Environment Aotearoa
2019 report was sobering, to say the least. The world is losing species at 1000 times the natural rate, and here in New Zealand we are in the unenviable position of leading this destruction. We have the highest proportion of threatened indigenous species — 74 per cent of terrestrial birds and 90 per cent of our seabirds, along with 76 per cent of freshwater fish and 84 per cent of reptiles, are in serious danger.
What is even more alarming is that the trend is increasing. In the 1990s around 25 per cent were threatened; now it’s around 75 per cent. This is not good news.
Humans have had a massive and ongoing impact on indigenous biodiversity. Native forest clearance and draining of wetlands have had huge negative impacts on native species and water quality, and this trend is ongoing. Only 0.4 per cent of our marine space is covered by ‘no take’ marine reserves.
Reversing these trends is a huge, but not impossible, task. Here in Northland we have doubled spending on protecting our native biodiversity. Most of this is aimed at supporting community initiatives to protect ‘their own back yard.’ Along the Kiwi Coast (Taipa¯ down to Mangawhai) the NRC is supporting more than 120 community groups to protect kiwi and other native species. Around 13 per cent of our operating budget is currently targeted to protecting our threatened species.
We have new initiatives under way to ramp up protection for the majority of our central and western forests that are in dire need of protection. The NRC is also working closely with DoC, the recent initiative to rid Northland lakes of rudd and koi carp being a good example.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Mountains to the Sea conference, hosted by Waimanoni Marae, at Awanui. Together with local iwi, conservationists from around New Zealand heard about the effectiveness of riparian planting and protecting marine habitats.
A field trip to Maitai Bay showed the positive impact the rahui there has had on restoring marine life. What had been a kina barren seafloor, devoid of any life bar kina, had quickly started its return to a healthy marine environment. Seaweed was growing vigorously, and thousands of baby snapper were growing in amongst it. Sustainable Coastlines led a litter survey showing that plastics continue to pollute our beaches; we all really need to be more careful with plastics.
The group then went on to Lake Waiporohita, which had been fenced off from stock and planted with natives to protect the water quality. Large numbers of Canada geese were impacting water quality, an unfortunate issue that needs to be resolved quickly.
What impressed me most was the enthusiasm, leadership and capacity from local people to protect the places they love. But we need to massively scale-up support for these efforts. This cannot be left to the ratepayers. Support from government is vital. Ongoing jobs, boosting local tourism, improving mental health and wellbeing are just some of the positive spin-offs.
Shane Jones, where are you?
"What impressed me most was the enthusiasm, leadership and capacity from local people to protect the places they love. But we need to massively scale-up support for these efforts. "