Discover DOC lands that illustrate the various impacts humans have had on New Zealand's biodiversity through the centuries.

Undiscovered New Zealand hosted a unique indigenous biodiversity. One feature was the complete absence of mammals except bats. The arrival of humans brought a three-staged assault. First was Maori - hunting, fires, rats and dogs. Next came Pakeha with sealing and whaling that brought those species close to local extinction. Thirdly, since the Treaty and continuing today, the major destructive influences have been land development, affecting around 70% of the land area, and a range of virulent introduced pests.

Development pressure saw land cleared for farming and exotic forestry, and the drainage and reclamation of wetlands. Initial responses to protect biodiversity included the 1885 Forests Act to conserve forests from burn-off, the establishment of Tongariro National Park in 1888 and the 1903 Scenery Preservation Act to provide permanent protection to key heritage. Since then New Zealand has developed a significant network of protected areas encompassing 33% of the land area along with over thirty marine reserves.

Introduced pests include rats, mice, stoats, weasels, and hedgehogs. These have wreaked havoc on indigenous fauna. There is also a continuing assault from possums, deer, pigs and goats. All these species readily acclimatised in New Zealand and have become prolific breeders.

The first pest control programs were aimed at protecting farm pasture from rabbits. The initial response to protect biodiversity from pests was the reservation of Resolution Island in 1893 and the appointment of Richard Henry as the world’s first endangered species ranger. The first government biodiversity pest program commenced in 1926 to control deer. This developed into a comprehensive animal control program that was unequalled anywhere in the world supported by 750 backcountry huts.

The sites that DOC manages under this theme are:






  • Bruce Park Memorials, near Hunterville 1924
  • RC Bruce Memorial, upper Turakina Valley Road, 1923



  • Perano Whaling Station 1923



Further reading

Galbreath, R. (1993). Working for Wildlife: A History of the New Zealand Wildlife Service. (Bridget Williams Books, Wellington).

Henry, Richard. (1903). The habits of the flightless birds of New Zealand with notes on other New Zealand birds, (John Mackay, Government Printer, Wellington).

Peat, Neville. (2007). Last, loneliest. (Heritage New Zealand, Historic Places Trust). 

Salmon, J.T. (1960). Heritage destroyed: the crisis in scenery preservation in New Zealand. (Reed, Wellington).

Young, D, (2004). Our Islands, Our Selves: A History of Conservation in New Zealand. (University of Otago Press, Dunedin).

Read a useful review of 'Our Islands, Our Selves: A History of Conservation in New Zealand' 

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