OPINION: Across Aotearoa, our plants and animals, the rivers we love, the seas that surround us and our landscapes, from wild ridge lines to vast wooded valleys, are threatened by the double crisis of biodiversity loss and climate change. .
Even in a good year, we are only sorting out a crisis. The Department of Conservation’s budget to finance predator control covers only 500,000 hectares out of 8.6 million, or just 6 percent.
Winners and losers are painstakingly selected each year, only priority areas, the habitats of some of the species on the verge of extinction, are checked.
For those who are in the thick of it, it’s heartbreaking. For the critters that live there, it’s life or death.
The changing climate makes things more difficult, as DOC’s limited budget is often spent on firefighting and storm repairs. Hotter summers lead to more âdingyâ years, with ermine epidemics that ensue.
Many of our plants and animals are already in danger – if they are not already gone.
In some valleys and around the coasts, less than 1% of the original plants and animals remain, as we have plowed the fields, covered the hills with pine trees and cultivated our towns and villages.
That is why Te Mana or Te Taiao, Aotearoa’s Biodiversity Strategy in New Zealand, pointed out that the way we did things in the past may not be the way of the future.
We need to act together, make strong and sensible decisions, and invest collectively in the work that needs to be done.
There is an urgent need to tackle biodiversity loss, because although our species face major changes in climatic conditions, they are also affected by an influx of alien and invasive plants and animals, and by continued development pressures. , including rural and urban intensification.
Even though we know that cattle in streams and knee-deep cows in mud are bad for our environment, we still have to fight for our protection thanks to the latest round of winter storage regulations. .
Even though we know that coal mining is bad for the climate, we still need to pursue legal advice to stop new mines.
Only 5-10% of wetlands remain across the country, but the bumps and digging to keep them drained continues from Southland to Northland.
We know that our forests and mounds, wetlands and oceans are the carbon sinks of today and tomorrow. But we continue to demand more and more space for development.
Some losses are more insidious.
Uprooted ferns and young seedlings in the open beech forest are a sure indicator of feral pigs, and the five-toed branches strewn across the tracks a sign of possums grazing at night.
Our forests, our carbon stores of the future, are chewed up to death.
With major investments in the control of deer, goats, possums, pigs and wallabies, we could absorb this surplus carbon that we have pumped into the atmosphere since the industrial age.
We could protect the seagrass beds that store carbon in our oceans and estuaries from smothering by sedimentation from poor farming and forestry practices.
We could conserve the carbon stored in wetlands and peatlands across the country and prevent disturbed peatlands from releasing methane.
This is why Te Mana o te Taiao also has regulatory tools within the strategy. We urgently need the implementation of a National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity which will help landowners manage and restore vital fragments of bush, wetlands and ridge lands scattered on private land.
We need an ecosystem approach to protect our oceans, and the regulatory means to back that up – from cameras on fishing boats to the application of methods that prevent seabirds and marine mammals from being caught in them. nets.
We need this to be a whole-of-government strategy, so that our emissions reduction plan prioritizes nature conservation.
We are inextricably linked with our natural environment, from the air we breathe and the water we drink, to the food we collect or produce.
Te Mana o te Taiao’s vision of a healthy and vigorous natural environment includes us. But to support people, we also need nature to thrive.
Kevin Hague is Managing Director of Forest & Bird.