Action plan aims to restore top of South Island's natural landscapes

10:01 am on 28 June 2019

Councils and iwi from across the top of the South Island have teamed up with the Department of Conservation on a plan to restore the region's natural landscapes.

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A new alliance aims to protect diverse landscapes such as Farewell Spit in Golden Bay. Photo: RNZ/ Tracy Neal

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage was in Nelson for this morning's launch of the Kotahitanga mō te Taiao Alliance.

It began with a dawn blessing and was timed for Matariki, to mark the start of a new season and the start of what was described as a new way of working for conservation.

The Buller, Tasman, Nelson, Marlborough and Kaikōura councils, plus the West Coast Regional Council, will collaborate with iwi and DOC on ways to protect and enhance the area's diverse natural landscapes.

There are currently five iwi committed to the plan including Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō Trust, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Kuia Trust, Ngāti Tama ki Te Waipounamu Trust, Te Ātiawa o Te Waka-a-Māui Trust and Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae.

Alliance spokesperson Martin Rodd said the strategy would guide landscape-scale conservation across district boundaries.

These landscapes included vast areas of beech forest, eastern dryland, alpine hinterland, the sheltered sounds of Marlborough, freshwater catchments and varied marine environments including extensive intertidal flats and wild and exposed coasts.

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Te Towaka in Pelorus Sound is among the array of landscapes that will be included in the new strategy. Photo: RNZ /Tracy Neal

Mr Rodd said hundreds of native plant and animal species lived within those landscapes, including some unique to the region.

"Our aspiration is to see the natural environment across the top of the South Island flourishing through ecological restoration over large areas with people caring for and benefiting from the environment."

Mr Rodd said the flourishing nature would in turn enrich communities.

"Kotahitanga is about collaboration, working together in collective action with communities, industry and a variety of organisations to achieve conservation gains that enhance and protect Te Taiao, our natural heritage."

Mr Rodd said the alliance's leadership and coordination role would include identifying, prioritising and integrating conservation, attracting investment and resources for new conservation work. It would also provide advice and support to conservation projects, and link new projects with existing projects.

He said the strategy was developed with the support of natural heritage management practitioners and scientists.

"Core to the strategy is combining science with mātauranga Māori, Māori knowledge and values, recognising the interconnected relationship between the spiritual world, the natural world and people."

Mr Rodd said the strategy would change and develop over time.

Chair of Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō Trust Brendan Wilson said iwi looked forward to achieving greater outcomes across the wider top of the south area, which otherwise might not have been possible.

"The aims and objectives of the alliance, to achieve large-scale conservation projects with wider social, cultural and economic outcomes, resonates well with iwi."

Mr Wilson said the desire to embrace mātauranga Māori concepts as a foundation would ensure that long-held values of protecting and enhancing the natural environments would have a greater chance of success.

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Mātauranga Māori concepts will help guide a new strategy to protect alpine and other landscapes at the top of the South Island. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett said the region's indigenous biodiversity was fragile. Some species were on the brink of extinction and ecosystems were a state of collapse.

He said a new approach was urgently needed, and a strategy that pooled resources and expertise made much more sense than continuing to work alone.

"This way we should be able to make some real progress," Mr Leggett said.

The Kotahitanga mō te Taiao alliance and strategy have been developed over the past two years.

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