Biodiversity is short for biological diversity. It describes the variety and diversity of all life on land, in freshwater, and marine environment ecosystems.
Tasman has a wide range of habitats. Our district is home to several internationally and nationally significant estuaries and sand flats, recognised for the rich abundance of life they support. However, like the rest of New Zealand, biodiversity in Tasman is declining. The loss of biodiversity is happening across the board, in our oceans and estuaries, rivers, forests, and our urban centres.
Over the past 50 years in Tasman we have lost takahe, orange-fronted and red-crowned parakeet, saddleback, the short-tailed bat, kakapo, kokako, and little-spotted kiwi. Other species such as kaka, kea, rock wren, 'blue duck' whio, and great-spotted kiwi are in decline except where there are predator control operations. Rarely seen, but also in decline, are our native fish species, skinks and geckos.
Habitat loss and degradation is a significant contributor to our declining biodiversity. The historical drainage of freshwater wetlands has resulted in the loss of significant ecosystems, which are important as spawning areas for native fish, sediment traps, and as areas rich in food and nutrients for bird and plant life. Changes in land-use for primary industries and some fishing practices have had ecological consequences. In urban places, houses and infrastructure have replaced natural landscapes, putting pressure on local biodiversity.
Some other key factors include the extensive spraying of scrub, intensive land use, non-indigenous pests and weeds, direct loss through weather events, and sea level rise.
Towards protection and restoration
There is hope for Tasman’s biodiversity. In recent times, awareness around the importance of and threat to our biodiversity has grown. In Tasman, more than half the land in our District is now protected for conservation purposes. In these places, ecosystems are relatively extensive and intact. There are also several restoration programmes around the District involving Tasman District Council, iwi, communities, and landowners. Together, they are replanting along waterways and improving connectivity between habitats and ecosystems from the mountains to the sea (ki uta ki tai).
Nationally, the Government has released the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy and is in the process of developing a National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity. Locally, council has established a forum of local experts to create a Bio Strategy for Tasman. This will provide strategic direction and action priorities for Biodiversity and Biosecurity initiatives within the District and help inform the new Tasman Environment Plan.
During the process to create the new Tasman Environment Plan, we want to hear local knowledge about special places in our District that might need management and/or protection. The Tasman Environment Plan is our opportunity to partner with iwi, landowners, industry, and our communities, and help deliver national and local level biodiversity strategies, to ensure thriving wildlife across Tasman’s land, rivers, and coast for generations to come.
There’s a lot of good, proactive work happening across the District to protect places with biodiversity values and as a council we support a number of restoration initiatives. Landowners, iwi, schools, farmers, forestry, and other industries are leading the way with predator control and planting projects that welcome volunteers.
In this episode of the Tasman Environment Plan podcast, TDC Policy Planners Mary Honey and Pauline Webby talk biodiversity in the Tasman District.