In the “Annual Report for year ended 30 June 2015

Impact we seek

Diversity of our natural heritage is maintained and restored

Impact indicators

Species occupancy – the species present are the ones you would expect naturally Performance maintained.

Indigenous dominance – the ecological processes present are natural Performance maintained.

Ecosystem representation – the full range of ecosystems is protected somewhere Performance declining.

10-year stretch goals

50 percent of New Zealand's natural ecosystems are benefiting from pest management.

50 freshwater ecosystems are restored 'from mountains to the sea'.

A nationwide network of marine protected areas is in place, representing New Zealand's marine ecosystems.

New Zealand's special species and places are our taonga and are at the heart of what it means to be Kiwi. New Zealanders are rightly proud of the diverse and distinctive range of natural heritage this country offers. In fact, around 70 percent of our native birds, 80 percent of our plants, and all of our native land reptiles, frogs and bats are found nowhere else in the world. However, New Zealand's natural heritage has greatly reduced in diversity and extent over the past 700 to 800 years and is continuing to be degraded by introduced pests, human activities and the impacts of climate change. This affects the services that ecosystems6 provide, such as clean water and healthy soils, and reduces the flow-on benefits to New Zealand's prosperity.

Species occupancy – the species present are the ones you would expect naturally

Endemic7 and other native bird species remain dominant in protected areas, more-so in forested areas than non-forested areas.

Kiwi

Kiwi are distributed across the country in predominantly indigenous forest areas.8 They are also present on a few pest-free islands as well as in both DOC and privately run sanctuaries.

By 2015 the national population of kiwi is estimated to be only 67,500 birds, or 3 percent of the original prehistoric density. Thanks to conservation management, the four rarest kiwi species are now increasing, as are many populations of the other species being managed by community groups and by DOC. Unmanaged populations of four brown kiwi are likely to be declining by 3 percent per year, and unmanaged tokoeka and great spotted kiwi by 2 percent per year.

Pest management – Battle for our Birds

This year a heavy seeding or mast was predicted to happen across most South Island beech forests. Beech trees produce variable seed crops between years but this heavy seeding was exceptional and predicted to drive introduced predators such as rats, mice and stoats to record high numbers.

DOC identified several sites in parts of New Zealand where rare native species are under greatest threat. Seedfall and rodent levels were monitored at these sites and, where thresholds were met, wide-scale predator control was actioned, which totalled more than 600,000 ha of public conservation land – the 'Battle for our Birds'.

Several bird species vulnerable to introduced predators were monitored to determine the effects of predator control operations. For riflemen, robin and mohua/yellowhead, no monitored birds were killed from taking poison bait, and all monitored nests showed much better success at breeding and fledging following the control operation than before the operation. Further monitoring is required to understand the medium-term benefits of these operations.

The supplementary technical report9, containing information from DOC's ongoing natural heritage status and trend monitoring, provides more detailed analysis and interpretation of the Battle for our Birds results.

Indigenous dominance – the ecological processes present are natural

The aim is to have ecosystems that contain and are shaped by native plant and animal species. Native plant species continue to dominate on public conservation land, despite the number of invasive weed species now in New Zealand.

Weeds impact on our native plant species. Based on what has been learnt from the status and trend monitoring programme, it can be predicted that some widespread, common woody environmental weeds could become more common in low rainfall zones under climate change forecasts, especially species such as gorse and prickly hakea, which are flammable and recolonise rapidly after fire. If regions with 1600–2500 mm rainfall become drier under climate change, current invasions by woody environmental weeds could become more widespread in those regions.

Graph of rifleman, robin, and mohua having higher success of fledglings in treatment areas.
Figure 2: The benefit for native bird species of 1080 poison control operations for rats and stoats in beech forests.

Lodgepole pine

Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) was the most frequent invading conifer of plots and, importantly, was the only woody environmental weed that was recorded in plots in the alpine zone, as small plants, probably not long established. Lodgepole pine could expand in range in the alpine zone under climate change, and it can alter soil nutrients, and support and benefit from fire, which is naturally very uncommon in the alpine zone. Early detection and management of lodgepole pine in these areas of unique biodiversity is critical.

New Zealand's national parks are less likely to be invaded by woody (e.g. wilding confers, gorse, Scotch broom) and non-woody non-native plants (e.g. the Japanese honeysuckle, and grasses browntop Agrostis capillaries and cocksfoot Dactylis glomerata) because they occur mostly in high-rainfall zones and most of them are largely forested below the natural treeline.

Graph showing native woody and herbaceous plants have a much higher mean species richness than exotic woody and herbaceous plants.
Figure 3: Native and exotic plant mean species richness on public conservation land.

Ecosystem representation – the full range of ecosystems is protected somewhere10

The total extent of legal protection currently afforded to a selection of New Zealand's environments ranges from approximately 10 percent for marine inside the territorial limits (through marine reserves) to 60 percent for wetlands.

Lowland areas in the North Island and eastern South Island remain poorly protected and vulnerable to development. The full range of New Zealand's marine habitats inside the 12 nautical mile territorial limit is not yet represented in marine protected areas. Currently, the total area under protection around the New Zealand mainland coasts is limited (3.5 percent).

Graph comparing various envrionment types under legal protection. Wetlands have the highest legal protection at 60%, marine reserves have the lowest at just under 10%.
Figure 4: Protection status of New Zealand environments.

Freshwater ecosystems – wetlands

The extent of protection shown here is as a proportion of the ecosystem type currently remaining. Some ecosystem types, such as wetlands, have been hugely reduced from their extents before human settlement. There has been good progress made to protect what remains, but that legacy is but a trace of the wetlands that were found in New Zealand. Relative to their historic extents, wetlands and dunes remain a priority for protection.

Marine protection

Approximately 9.8 percent, or 17,700 km2, of New Zealand's marine area inside the 12 nautical mile territorial limit is protected within marine reserves. Almost all (17,083 km2 or 96.5 percent) of this total is protecting the ecologically important offshore island marine areas of the Kermadec and subantarctic groups, whereas 617 km2 or 3.5 percent of the total is around New Zealand mainland coasts.

One Kaikoura and five South Island West Coast marine reserves were established in 2014/15 – the Hikurangi, Kahurangi, Punakaiki, Waiau Glacier Coast, Tauparikākā and Hautai marine reserves, protecting an additional 27,760 hectares.

The current extent of legally protected wetlands is about 200,000 hectares, down from the original of nearly 2,500,0000.
Figure 5: Total extent of remaining wetlands under legal protection.

Graph showing the original extent of dunes under legal protection was almost 130,000 hectares, currently it's approximately 25,000.
Figure 6: Total extent of remaining active dunes under legal protection.

Statement of service performance 2014/15: Managing natural heritage

Performance measures and targets: 2014/15

National commentary11

Pest and weed control: Possums

213,129 hectares of land will receive treatment this year for possums.

357,316 hectares of land received treatment for possums.
Achieved

1,044,800 hectares of land will be under sustained control for possums.

975,620 hectares of land was under sustained control for possums.
Not achieved
The main reduction was in North and Western South Island Region. The region reported that programmes that had historically targeted possums were switched during the year to target rats and mustelids in response to the anticipated beech mast event. In these programmes, possums became a secondary target. This change is expected to occur in other regions at key sites through 2015/2016 as techniques allow a more direct focus on rats and mustelids as the primary pest rather than controlling them as bycatch in operations targeting possums.

Pest and weed control: Deer

374,000 hectares of land will receive treatment this year for deer.

456,757 hectares of land received treatment for deer. 
Achieved

541,000 hectares of land will be under sustained control for deer.

522,714 hectares of land was under sustained control for deer.
Achieved

Pest and weed control: Goats

1,438,732 hectares of land will receive treatment this year for goats.

1,103,331 hectares of land received treatment for goats.
Not achieved
North and Western South Island Region reported a reduction of 115,069 hectares due to some work identified in the planning period not being required because of success in the previous year, and a reduction in treatment as programmes were increasingly focused on priority sites. 
Southern South Island Region reported a reduction of 128,395 hectares mainly due to more goat control in some parts of planned control blocks at the expense of other parts of these blocks due to higher than expected goat numbers. In addition, the region reported switching resources planned for goat work to trial work on a pig toxin as part of long-term planning for eradication of pigs on the Auckland Islands. This affected 18,000 hectares.

2,221,394 hectares of land will be under sustained control for goats.

2,125,628 hectares of land was under sustained control for goats. 
Achieved

Pest and weed control: Aquatic animal pests

7 aquatic animal pest eradication operations undertaken in treatable sites that met the criteria for success set out in the programme plan (success criteria is measured 2 years after operation is run).

5 aquatic animal pest eradication operations were undertaken that met the criteria for success set out in the programme plan.
One eradication operation for gambusia was undertaken in New Plymouth District during the year and success will be reported once criteria are reassessed in 2 years.
Eradication of two populations in Whanganui District (gambusia and koi carp) was not successful and planning will recommence for these in 2015/16.
Not achieved

Pest and weed control: Weeds (including aquatic weeds)

120 weed control work plans will be completed using a weed-led approach.

59 weed control work plans were completed using a weed-led approach.
Not achieved
Northern North Island, Central North Island, and North and Western South Island Regions reported that the initial targets put forward were based on one plan for each weed-led species targeted. Work during the year incorporated these individual plans into a more efficient consolidated programme for the region, greatly reducing the number of plans being implemented.

544,901 hectares of land will receive treatment this year for weeds using a site-led approach.

525,469 hectares of land received treatment for weeds using a site-led approach.
Achieved

1,366,956 hectares of land will be under sustained weed control using a site-led approach.

1,220,980 hectares of land was under sustained weed control using a site-led approach. 
Not achieved
The main reduction was in North and Western South Island Region and, to a lesser extent, Central North Island Region. The reduction was mainly driven by the move to integrated management at priority sites and more accurate mapping of these sites.

Natural heritage restoration

613,000 hectares of land will be under active restoration this year – beech mast response.

681,004 hectares of land were under active restoration this year through the aerial 1080 beech mast response. 
Achieved

72 island biosecurity programmes will maintain a pest-free status.

65 island biosecurity programmes to maintain a pest-free status are in place. 
Achieved

Ecosystem management

289 ecosystems will be under active management through optimised ecosystem prescriptions.

507 ecosystems were under active management through optimised ecosystem prescriptions.
Achieved

Species management

159 threatened species will be under active management through optimised species prescriptions.

The number of threatened species under active management through optimised species prescriptions is a combination of 159 species being managed at only one site, 48 species being managed at two sites, and 114 species being managed at three or more sites.
Achieved

192 threatened species will be under active management to ensure local security.

258 threatened species were under active management to ensure local security.
Achieved

210 threatened species will be under active management to improve understanding.

220 threatened species were under active management to improve understanding.
Achieved

The Conservation Services Programme will meet its agreed performance criteria and milestones. 
Achievement will be reported at year end.

In 2014/15 1378 days of observer coverage was achieved to monitor protected species interactions in a range of both inshore and offshore fisheries. A series of population studies on post-release survival was run relating to seabird species, the New Zealand sea lion and spine-tailed devil ray. Mitigation projects focused on inshore and offshore bottom longline, surface longline and trawl fisheries, and two seabird liaison roles were funded jointly with MPI to help fishers reduce their risk of seabird bycatch in the and around the Hauraki Gulf. Final reports and more information can be found on the DOC website www.doc.govt.nz/csp. 
Achieved

Hectares of marine areas legally protected during the year

27,760 hectares. Five South Island West Coast marine reserves, and one Kaikoura marine reserve were established in 2014/15. Kahurangi, Punakaiki, Waiau Glacier Coast, Tauparikākā, Hautai and Hikurangi marine reserves.
Achieved

Hectares of marine areas gazetted and under sustained management during the year:
Marine Reserves (38) 1,732,395 ha
Marine Mammal Sanctuaries (6)
2,340,000 hectares

Marine reserves (44 reserves) 1,743,000 hectares – change since June 2014 is the addition of the five South Island West Coast marine reserves, and the marine reserve off the Kaikoura coast.
Marine mammal sanctuaries12 (8 sanctuaries) 2,810,000 hectares – change since June 2014 is the addition of Te Rohe o Te Whānau Puha/Kaikōura Whale Sanctuary (470,000 hectares) and Ōhau Point New Zealand Fur Seal Sanctuary (4 hectares), both near Kaikoura.
Achieved

42,409 hectares of terrestrial environment legally protected during the year.

47,228 hectares of terrestrial environment was legally protected.
Achieved

Output class operating statement 2014/15: Management of natural heritage
 

Actual
30/06/14
$000

Budget
30/06/15
$000

Revised budget
30/06/15
$000

Actual
30/06/15
$000

Revenue

Crown

147,196

145,934

147,769

147,769

Other

14,075

14,369

18,169

15,908

Total revenue

161,271

160,303

165,938

163,677

Expenses

Expenses

162,995

160,303

165,938

161,241

Surplus/(deficit)

(1,724)

0

0

2,436

Statement of service performance 2014/15: Regional pest management strategies

Performance measures and targets: 2014/15

National commentary

Crown pest and weed exacerbator costs

13 regional pest management strategies with completed Crown exacerbator weed and pest programmes.

The Department continued exacerbator weed and pest programmes for 15 regional councils and unitary authorities.
Achieved

Output class operating statement 2014/15: Regional pest management strategies
 

Actual
30/06/14
$000

Budget
30/06/15
$000

Revised budget
30/06/15
$000

Actual
30/06/15
$000

Revenue

Crown

3,514

3,192

2,592

2,592

Other

100

100

4

Total revenue

3,514

3,292

2,692

2,596

Expenses

Expenses

2,927

3,292

2,692

2,269

Surplus/(deficit)

587

327

Battle for our Birds

  • A heavy seeding or 'mast' was predicted to happen
  • Sites were targeted where rare native species are under greatest threat
  • 27 aerial 1080 operations were carried out, covering more than 600,000 ha

Battle for our Birds - Beech mast 2014.

Map of beech seedfall around the South Island 2014, mostly on the western side.

Rat populations in beech forset before 1080 treatment approx. 45% and after 1080 approx. 5%.
The impact of Battle for our Birds 1080 poison control operations on rat populations in beech forests (the average of 25 control locations)

The area of land where kiwi occur has dropped dramatically from 23 million hectares in prehuman times to just two million hectares currently.
Understanding our threatened species: kiwi distribution over time


6 Ecosystem services are the goods and services provided by ecosystems from which New Zealanders derive benefit. Ecosystem services are underpinned by biodiversity. Without biodiversity, there would be no ecosystem services because these services flow directly from the presence of life on earth.

7 Endemic means unique to New Zealand.

8 There are considered to be ten kiwi taxa – for more information see the Kiwis for Kiwi website www.kiwisforkiwi.org

9 Department of Conservation 2015: Biodiversity indicators: 2015 assessment – supplementary material. Department of Conservation, Wellington. www.doc.govt.nz/annual-report-2015.

10 This indicator is made up of terrestrial, freshwater and marine components. The terrestrial component has met its first milestone of more than 400 ecosystem management units under management. The marine and freshwater components will be progressed through the stretch goals established during the 2014/15 year.

11 DOC considers that performance has been achieved when the output is within a tolerance level acceptable for the nature of the operation. For field operations, this is generally within +/-10% of the projected performance target. For significant outputs however, as shown on the 'Summary of Output Performance' table, this tolerance is +/-5%. When outside these ranges, a variance comment is provided.

12 The marine mammal data is derived from the legal area of each marine mammal sanctuary (DOC Conservation Units), which may differ from earlier area calculations using GIS tools, due to aspects such as differing projection.

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