Although New Zealand was one of the last places on earth to be settled by humans, it has one of the worst records of native biodiversity loss. While ongoing habitat loss is a serious problem for threatened species of plants and animals, the biggest hazard now is introduced weeds and animal pests.

Addressing New Zealand's Biodiversity Challenge

Business as usual in biodiversity will not be good enough if NZ is to maintain its unique indigenous flora and fauna. This thinkpiece suggests five ‘shifts’ that regional councils believe will make the greatest difference. Underlying them is the urgent need for active management – more predator control and the like – and recognition that only a co-ordinated and tenure-neutral approach will succeed against threats to biodiversity.

The focus is regional councils because they’re already in this space and have a good experience and understanding of active management, particularly in partnership with private landowners. The document was prepared by Gerard Willis of Enfocus on behalf of the Regional Council Chief Executives Bio Sub-Group, and published in July 2017.

Addressing NZ's Biodiversity Challenge - A regional council thinkpiece

What we are doing

In Southland, we have areas with particularly high biodiversity values like Fiordland, pristine lakes, bush areas including remnants on public and private land and much of Stewart Island.

Much of the work we do has positive spin-offs for land, freshwater and coastal marine biodiversity. Overall, about 32% of the work we undertake contributes to the maintenance of biodiversity across the region.

  • We have a particularly strong and successful biosecurity programme for managing certain pest animals (e.g. possums, ferrets, rooks) and plants (e.g. gorse, broom, wilding trees).
  • Our environmental education and land sustainability teams are out working on the ground with teachers, schools, farmers and community groups.
  • We also have technical staff out monitoring and advising on species and habitat.

We're also working on the development of a pathways plan in partnership with central government and regional partners to better manage marine pests, and the ways pests (like Undaria) are transported (on boat hulls) into areas like Fiordland.

Biodiversity Monitoring

We undertake biodiversity monitoring at the same sites as rodent monitoring. Some of the methods used to assess biodiversity include:

Five minute bird counts

'Five minute bird counts' are used to estimate abundance and diversity of bird species in an area. The method involves standing at a series of stations and counting the number and species of birds seen and heard over five minutes.

The five minute bird count method is commonly used to monitor the biodiversity values in an area. This could be where a pest control activity has been carried out and the individual or group is interested in monitoring the effect that has on bird numbers.

For more on 'five minute bird counts' visit the Department of Conservation's website.

Tracking tunnels


The tracking tunnel technique uses a 'run through' tunnel with a strip of white card either side of a central ink pad. An animal passes through the tunnel, picks up the ink on its feet, and when it exits the tunnel it leaves behind foot prints on the papers. The footprints can then be 'read' and percentages of animals present can be estimated. Tracking tunnels can detect a variety of animals from insects to whatever can fit through the tunnels (e.g. hedgehogs, young possum, kittens).

Environment Southland also records weta tracks found on the tracking cards set out for the rodent monitoring. Weta and rodents both are attracted to peanut butter, so both animal types can be monitored simultaneously. Weta are commonly eaten by rodents and so provide a good proxy for biodiversity recovery following rodent control.

Community Groups & Landowners

We're working with schools, groups and individuals who want to carry out native and riparian plantings. Contact us to find out how you or your group can get involved.

High Value Areas

The High Value Area (HVA) programme utilises ecological surveys undertaken by local ecologists, and provides valuable information to landowners that can assist with overall land management. If you're interested in the significance of an area of native bush on your land but don't know much about it, the HVA programme is a great way to understand more about it and the ways in which this can be managed for the future.

Learn more about our High Value Areas programme.

What you can do

There are many ways you can help to look after New Zealand's biodiversity:

Page reviewed: 29 Aug 2017 3:28pm