Forest & Bird launches ambitious strategy for New Zealand's nature

By Mike Britton, 18 Mar 2016

At the end of 2015 Forest & Bird (BirdLife New Zealand) launched its new strategic plan.  It is ambitious and based on the vision of, in Aotearoa (New Zealand), ecological resilience being at the heart of everything the community does.  Its mission is to protect and restore nature.

Reducing climate-damaging emissions, building resilience in ecosystems and promoting an economy that is both sustainable and enhances biodiversity are key parts of the strategy.  For bird and nature lovers the control and eventually eradication of introduced rodents, mustelids and possums, that have so decimated New Zealand’s ecology is a key, aspirational, but potentially achievable goal. 

Over its 75 year history, the protection of New Zealand’s natural areas has been a key focus for Forest & Bird and now it wants to make sure that these hard fought for protected areas are fully protected and managed against threats.  The challenge goes on to see protected areas on land extended to protect the full range of the county’s natural heritage.   A big part of that work will be built around finishing the identification of terrestrial Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) and seeing them projected. 

Forest & Bird has recently completed identification of the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) at sea and on land for marine and coastal birds.  It is starting further work to identify IBAs for terrestrial birds.  As part of its strategy for managing threatened species, Forest & Bird aims that all IBAs in New Zealand have been protected or are being managed to ensure species recovery by 2040.  With its 50 community based branches, Forest & Bird has the capacity on the ground to achieve this goal.

With almost a third of New Zealand’s terrestrial areas in protective status, protection of the marine environment lags well behind.  The strategy aims for a comprehensive and representative network of marine protected areas with ecological integrity established over at least 30% of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone within 10 years.  The recent agreement by the Government to establish a 620,000 square kilometre marine sanctuary around the Kermadec Islands, as result of a campaign by Forest & Bird and other partners, gives hope this target is also achievable.

An exciting new part the strategy identifies that nature does not recognise political boundaries. Many of New Zealand’s indigenous species migrate through the region and across oceans. Forest & Bird intends to work with partners in the Pacific and globally to protect and restore the habitats of New Zealand’s indigenous species, wherever they migrate.  Building international partnerships and also undertaking international projects to enhance the protection or habitat of a New Zealand migratory species is part of the strategy.

Ambitious the strategy is, but for New Zealand’s biggest and oldest nature conservation agency, and its 70,000 members and supporters, achieving the impossible has never been a restraint.

The strategy can be downloaded from: http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/files/image/StrategicPlan2015.pdf