Conservation Matters: Focus on Predator Free NZ a priority

Dr Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
Dr Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

First and most urgent is predator control. Predator Free NZ has targeted possums, stoats and rats, but there are many more.

A huge thanks to Te Rarawa and Forest & Bird for organising the recent visit by Dr Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. It is not often Kaitaia gets an opportunity like that; it was just a shame more people did not make the most of it.

The recent report about saving New Zealand's birds (Taonga of an Island Nation) is definitely worth a read. It was prepared to advise ministers and educate us all in a non-biased, easy to understand way about the state of our birds and what we can do from here.

The introduction of Predator Free 2050 has also helped highlight these issues.

In a nutshell, Dr Wright warns that of 93 endemic bird species (out of 168 total species), only 13 per cent are "doing okay"; 45 per cent are at serious risk of extinction.

We have some amazing bird species that are very different than others worldwide, making it so important we do not lose them.

So what do these birds need to survive? First and most urgent is predator control.

Predator Free NZ has targeted possums, stoats and rats, but there are many more. Mice, other mustelids (weasels and ferrets), dogs and feral cats are also a huge problem. There are an estimated 1000 feral cats up 90 Mile Beach, and millions countrywide.

The feral cat issue is huge, contentious, and can no longer be ignored. How we deal with this is a conversation we as a community must have.

Predator control ideas are flourishing. Trapping and poisoning (including the use of 1080) are tools we have now and will help stem the carnage, but long-term genetic manipulations are thought to hold the key. Again, we need to have these discussions as a community long before the technology is released.

The second requirement is the provision of adequate and appropriate habitat. Birds not only need to be safe but need adequate food supplies and somewhere to nest. This not only includes forest but farm land, coastal, river beds, cities and wetlands. While offshore islands are great sanctuaries, in the long-term the mainland needs to once again be home to these birds.

The last requirement is enough genetic diversity to ensure long-term survival. All species need variability within their population. If too many individuals within a population are too alike the population's ability to adapt or overcome adversity (eg disease) becomes limited. In very small populations, like the kakapo or black robin, lack of variability could be their undoing.

But it is not just in these instances. At present Northland kiwi are seen as having four groups (Northern, Eastern, Western and Southern), which must not be mixed, to prevent gene pollution. On a larger scale, all North Island brown kiwi are split into Taranaki, Coromandel, Eastern and Northland birds, which are not to be mixed despite having very small differences.

Before we fragmented their habitat they would have interbred, so are we creating more of a problem?

By being informed our community can help have input into the future of our environment. I challenge everyone to read this report.

- Northland Age

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 22 Oct 2017 19:27:10 Processing Time: 809ms