Looking out for nature



Taking the Long View


     Gord Stewart



Looking out for nature


Who speaks for nature? Who looks out for the wild things?


My neighbor makes no bones about it. “Conservation is everyone’s responsibility,” he says. “We can all do things.” He practices what he preaches with a beautiful natural garden, pest traps set, and his weekly volunteering at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari.


Chatting with him over the fence the other day, I was lamenting the sheer effort to rid the woodlands at the front of our property of invasive plants so the natives could flourish.”


“I’ll have to live to a 106 if I’m going to win this one,” I told him.


“Just keep at it,” he advised. “The next generation can pick it up from there.”


Wise words, those, when it comes to addressing biodiversity conservation in New Zealand. With the scope of the task and the biodiversity loss the country has suffered thus far, we’ll need all hands on deck over the long term to have any real chance of success.


We’ll need to do more in our own backyards and communities, on rural properties and farms, and on reserves and protected public lands. And we’ll need strong backing and the commitment of councils and central government to do it.


Luckily, other organisations are there to help. And lucky for us we were in early on Forest & Bird’s Land for Wildlife voluntary conservation programme. With their assessment, advice and action plan, we are making progress.


Some of the onion weed has been removed, making way for paths and a mulched area now planted with a variety of natives. Privet was cleared, but it’s time for another sweep through to hit the sprigs coming back. Possum, stoat, and rat traps are set.


A few cleared patches will soon be planted with nikau palms grown from seed by a friend, plus lemonwoods and flax transplanted from nearby spots in the woods. Soon it’ll be time to pull more montbretia that simply refuses to give up.


We’re following the good advice of Forest & Bird that is appropriate no matter the size of your property or where you live: plant natives, control pests, and remove weeds that could spread into wild areas.


This approach is evident around the country in the likes of community revegetation projects and wetland protection and riparian planting on farms. Various council and industry programmes help fund such efforts and provide guidance to those carrying them out.


In addition to all this, volunteer groups and trusts around the country manage a wide range of island and mainland conservation sanctuaries.


Effective public policy is crucial to underpin all these efforts, so it’s good to see this was top of the agenda at the Environmental Defence Society’s recent conference entitled Wild Things: Addressing terrestrial, freshwater and marine biodiversity loss. Issues of real importance were wrestled with over the two-day session.


Conservation Minister Maggie Barry told the conference that the Native Plant Protection Act 1934 was being revised. EDS’s recent report, Vanishing Nature, had identified this law as long out of date and not fit for purpose.


Minister for the Environment Nick Smith announced a number actions that the Government is taking. This could include potentially resourcing a collaborative process on a National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity.


There is a sense that the conference has established a turning point in the way we resource and manage nature in New Zealand.


Let’s hope so. But it won’t just happen. The Government must show real leadership and we can all contribute in our own way. As noted environmental educator, David W Orr, has said, “Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.”



Gord Stewart is an environmental sustainability consultant. He does project work for government, industry, and non-profit organisations.







Resources & Sources

Goodnature time-saving, humane, toxin-free possum and stoat control (www.goodnature.co.nz)

Land for Wildlife voluntary nature conservation (www.forestandbird.org.nz)

Wild Things conference speaker presentations and video recordings (www.eds.org.nz)



Photo credit

Photos – Sandy Stewart

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