DOC gets $76 million to protect native plants and animals

4:14 pm on 2 March 2019

The government is pouring money into a "biodiversity crisis", with 4000 native plants and animals threatened or at risk of extinction.

Whittaker - a five-day-old rowi kiwi

Okarito brown kiwi numbers have increased due to funding for their recovery and protection, says Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage. Photo: West Coast Wildlife Centre

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said $76 million of government funding had been confirmed for the Department of Conservation (DOC) over the next four years to help tackle the loss of native species.

The funding will cover the cost 150 more DOC staff.

The extra money will also be used to protect high priority ecosystems, increase management of marine reserves and freshwater systems, and protect an extra six islands from pests. Two research projects to protect marine areas will also be carried out.

Ms Sage said the increased funding was necessary to ensure the survival of endangered species.

The numbers of 22 species, including Okarito brown kiwi, have increased due to funding for their recovery and protection.

"Where there has been an investment in conservation with our threatened species, we have been able to turn around their decline," Ms Sage said.

"We need to invest in conservation to ensure that we stop the decline and that we allow numbers to rebuild."

Eugenie Sage speaking on the steps of Parliament

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage says more than 4000 native plants and wildlife are threatened or at risk of extinction. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

A DOC spokesperson, Kat Lane, said the funding would bring a much-needed expansion to compliance work for Auckland's five marine reserves.

"It's going to mean more rangers out there," Ms Lane said.

"And it will help us maintain pest-free island programmes."

Ms Sage said in the 750 years since humans arrived in New Zealand, more than 50 native bird species have become extinct, as well as three frogs, at least three lizards, one freshwater fish, four plants, and an unknown number of invertebrates.

On land, the main threats to native species were predators, such as possums, rats and stoats; human habitat destruction, such as wetland drainage, water pollution and changing river flows; diseases such as myrtle rust; and the impacts of climate change, she said.

"In the oceans, fisheries bycatch and over-fishing affect seabirds and marine mammals," Ms Sage said.

The $76m of funding was allocated as part of last year's Budget, but depended on a detailed business case being completed and approved by the ministers of conservation and finance.

However, Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said the government had invested in the right areas, but the funding was not enough to deal with the crisis.

"Some of the detail shows 30 percent of one of the priorities being funded by this money, so it just shows how much further we need to go," he said.

"One of the things I really liked about the minister's announcement was the strong emphasis on marine ecosystems, because we can very easily forget or under emphasise how critically endangered those marine species are."

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