13 Aug 2015

Threatened species advocate for DOC

8:47 pm on 13 August 2015

Te Papa Atawhai - The Department of Conservation (DOC) - has appointed New Zealand's first threatened species ambassador.

DOC threatened species ambassador Nicola Toki.

DOC threatened species ambassador Nicola Toki. Photo: Supplied

Nicola Toki, who has worked in wildlife conservation for more than a decade, has been appointed to the high-profile job working with DOC to help protect the country's threatened species.

She will be building partnerships and encouraging New Zealanders to become involved in conservation efforts.

Ms Toki said as far as her engagement with iwi goes, tāngata whenua already have a good grasp of the importance of her mahi [work] in their role as protectors of the environment.

"Iwi already understand the importance of a Threatened Species Ambassador because it's embedded in the principles of katiakitanga (guardianship)," Ms Toki said.

"Iwi as kaitiaki understand that these birds and reptiles and plants and bugs they're not just things apart from us they're intrinsic part of our being.

"I'm really looking forward to working with iwi right across the country on those things that are special to them."

Ms Toki said the new role sent a signal to the rest of the world about how much Aotearoa values conservation.

She said she would also be working with her Australian counterpart.

"The creation of this role is a very significant message that New Zealand takes the protection of its wildlife really seriously," she said.

"Australia recently appointed a Threatened Species Commissioner to do a similar for the Minister of the Environment over there and I'm really looking forward to getting in touch with him and taking the ANZAC approach to how we might turn back the tide for some of our native wildlife."

Ambassador's role timely

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry said the ambassador's role came at the right time.

"As a nation, we face a major battle to save our threatened species. Our unique native wildlife is besieged by introduced pests and other threats," Ms Barry said.

"We must all work together to save them - and the ambassador will be pivotal to making that happen."

There are more than 800 threatened species in New Zealand, with another 2700 species classified as "at risk".

Ms Barry was full of praise for Ms Toki and said she was the right person for the job.

"Ms Toki is an enthusiastic, inspiring and committed voice for conservation, and an excellent choice for the new role. I congratulate her on the appointment and look forward to working closely with her over the next few years."