Date: 25 March 2013
Future planning for Northland takes a major step forward during April when public submissions are heard on the region's draft Conservation Management Strategy, Northland Conservation Board chairman Mita Harris says.
The CMS sets a plan for how conservation in the region is managed for the next decade and further into the future, and the current review has been underway for the last few years.
Submissions have closed on the CMS and over 60 submissions have been received from a wide variety of organisations.
The next step is the hearing of public submissions by the Department of Conservation scheduled for April 2013.
The Board, which is appointed by the Minister of Conservation and oversees implementation of the CMS among its statutory duties, will be part of the Hearings Committee.
Mr Harris welcomed the public interest in the strategy review and said he and other Board members will represent the Northland Conservation Board at the hearings to hear the public views.
The review of the strategy has been in progress during the last few years and DOC has gathered information, which shows changing public understanding and expectations around recreation use, awareness of the environment and the importance of conservation.
Mr Harris noted one common view in early responses was the request for improved access, particularly to coastal areas. People wanting to enjoy public conservation land were seeking access by foot, motorised vehicles, mountain bikes, horses or by air.
Another priority, heightened by recent drought conditions, has been protecting and enhancing fresh water quality for communities who depend on public conservation land as catchment for water supplies.
Mr Harris is actively promoting a campaign to Save the Kūkupa – the native wood pigeon.
This is the time of year when an illegal hunting season has taken place, and Mr Harris is leading the call to stop the outlawed practice. He has urged people who may be thinking of poaching the threatened birds to consider the importance of the species to Northland and future generations.
"This is a time when we should think of our responsibility to protect and preserve the forest life of Northland and nurture a beautiful species of native bird, not kill it,'' he said after the Board's March meeting.
At its meeting in Kaitaia, the Board reviewed its ecological management goal – "to enhance Northland's indigenous aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity and to reduce the threats to indigenous species at risk".
Kevin Matthews, chair of the Bushland Trust, was invited to present his view of the goal and he agreed with the realistic aim of striving to reduce the threats to species, not eliminate them. Eliminating the threats was "nigh impossible except perhaps in some island situations and given the funds that are available".
The aim had to be achievable otherwise time, effort and money would be wasted and a step backward taken for the species at risk. He likened it to a never-ending job, "a bit like housework but in the field''.
The Bushland Trust focuses its work on the Sweetwater Lakes north west of Kaitaia, improving the environment by clearing and creating filtration areas and re-vegetating with native trees.
In commenting on the NCB's goal, Mr Matthews spoke about:
- Changes in land management bordering indigenous areas, which can result in devastating impacts on habitat for at risk species – such as land drainage reducing adjacent wetlands water tables, intensive farming without adequate buffer zones, pine harvesting which leads to the establishment of wind-borne pest plants like pampas
- Pigs and rats threatening mammalian species – and pigs transferring the Kauri die back disease through disturbing the soil
- Combating the threat from opossums by concentrating on giving threatened species the most relief. The regionally significant Northern Rata is under increasing threat from opossum – "it would be a disgrace if we allowed the summer flowering brilliance of the Rata to disappear''.
- Because DOC was under review and had fewer resources, mainly voluntary organisations are "endeavoring to pick up the pieces''. More and more conservation groups are being set up but are struggling to be effective, as they are competing for the same slice of the financial pie.
He said New Zealand does have the tools and "know how'' to help preserve threatened species. "However, in the end it's a matter of how much we care and apply ourselves to the task of preserving our natural heritage as a country, including politically''.
Also in the section of the meeting where the public make submissions to the NCB, an example was given of a group in the community taking the initiative and setting up a vehicle-free sanctuary at Ahipara on Te Oneroa a Tohe (90 Mile Beach) to protect the habitat of the endangered tuturiwhatu (New Zealand dotterel) and other birds and animals.
Doug Klever told Board members the sanctuary was established in 2012 with the help of Te Runanga O Te Rarawa chair Haami Piripi, Ahipara Community Coast Care Group, children from the Ahipara School, Northland Regional Council, Department of Conservation staff and DOC volunteers.
Mr Harris applauded the work of communities in the North but said communities could only do so much and needed to be resourced to achieve their full potential.
Northland Conservation Board chairman
Ph: +64 27 584 4332