Launch of Te Koiroa o Te Koiora – our shared vision for living with nature

Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou katoa

Ki a Ranginui rāua ko Papatūānuku

Tēnā kōrua.

Ki ngā tini mate

Kua haere ki te pō,

Haere, haere, haere.

Ki te whare e tū nei, tēnā koe

Ki nga manawhenua o tenei takiwa   Te Atiawa, nga Taranaki whanui

Tēnā koutou

E kaimahi o Te Papa Atawhai, tena koutou.   

Rau rangatira ma, tena koutou .  

Kua honore ahau         

ki te tu ki te tautoko tenei kaupapa whakahirahira - Te Koiroa o Te Koiora.

Ko te taiao ko tatou  

ko tatou ko te taiao.                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Mihi mai, mihi mai, karanga mai   

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa                               

Thank you for joining me for the launch of “Te Koiroa o te Koiora – our shared vision for living with nature.” 

The discussion document is intended to assist a national conversation about how we connect with and value nature across land, freshwater and marine environments so that nature is healthy, abundant and thriving, and how we achieve the shifts in our economic and other activities to achieve this. 

Many of New Zealand’s plants and wildlife are found nowhere else on Earth because they evolved on these islands in isolation from other land masses for around 80 million years.  They are ancient and unique – we have giant invertebrates like a centipede the length of my hand, penguins that live in the forest, trees that can live for over a thousand years, and the smallest and rarest dolphin in the world. These creatures and plants are our first inhabitants and have lived in Aotearoa since the days of the dinosaurs.

New Zealanders value nature for many reasons. Healthy nature is central to human health, wellbeing and our economy. Our natural landscapes and seascapes and the plants and wildlife that they support, are fundamental to Māori and are part of our Kiwi identity

We have a bioeconomy – our food and fibre exports are based on the services that nature provides us for free – clean air, rain, soil, sunshine and pollinators and our natural landscapes draw international visitors and are the basis of our leading export industry.

Since humans first settled in New Zealand nearly 1000 years ago, indigenous nature has been in decline- through extinctions, loss and disruption of natural areas and ecosystems, and the effects of an increasing number and variety of introduced plant and animal pests.  Human activities are making environments harder for species to live in.

Despite all that so many are doing to try to protect and restore indigenous species, habitats and natural environments, indigenous nature in our country is in crisis.  Around 4,000 species are threatened or at risk of extinction. This includes 90% of our seabirds, 84% of reptiles, 74% of terrestrial birds, 76% of freshwater fish, and 46% of vascular plants.

It’s not just a crisis for our country, biodiversity is in crisis across the world.

A recent report from the IPBES (the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) provides overwhelming evidence that nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history, with almost one million species are at risk of extinction.

Ecosystems are in trouble too. Almost two-thirds of New Zealand’s identified rare and naturally uncommon ecosystems are threatened. Indigenous forests, tussock grasslands, wetlands, estuaries and sand dunes have been lost.

This trend of decline has continued throughout the last 50 years, slowed only in part by more active conservation and natural resource management. We’ve made some progress on the targets set in 2010, but this hasn’t been enough to halt the decline.

We urgently need to act to better safeguard nature, for its own sake and for ours – both present and future generations. We need to increase our focus and accelerate action.

Each country’s contribution to the goals of the international Convention on Biological Diversity is through a national biodiversity strategy and action plan. The New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2000-2020 was a landmark document, helping to inspire the increasing public interest especially in local government and providing practical support for protect.  We have made some progress on the targets set in 2010 but this has not been enough to halt the decline.

The next fifty years will present many new challenges and opportunities – some we are already aware of, and some we can’t predict. This Government’s focus on wellbeing extends to nature, and there are many initiatives in progress or underway which will help to protect and restore biodiversity.

As a strategy Te Koiroa or Te Koiroa could act as a forest canopy, providing guidance and support to other areas of work that grow underneath it. A key supporting ‘tree’ under the canopy will be the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity, which will include objectives and policies to help guide the way regional and district councils work with landholders and communities to look after indigenous biodiversity.

Community conservation has grown significantly in recent decades. Community restoration groups, landholders, iwi and hapu, backyard trappers, coastal and marine protection advocates and the sanctuary movement have changed biodiversity management. Philanthropic funding and interest in conservation from some business has increased.  Considerable effort is now going into landscape-scale ecological restoration, community-driven projects and pest management initiatives.

Where there has been an investment and focus on recovery efforts there has also been a significant success – the threat status of 22 bird species, including rowi, takahē and mōhua/yellowhead, has improved since 2012 as a result of intensive management and pest control efforts on public conservation land.

Because we all depend on nature, we all have a responsibility to safeguard it. If everyone is involved and has a clear role to play – iwi, central and local government, industry and businesses, researchers, community groups and individuals – we can make the biggest difference. If we recognise that nature at the heart of our success and wellbeing that means doing more to protect and restore our unique ecosystems and species.

Te Papa Atawhai/ the Department of Conservation has been tasked with leading the development of a new Biodiversity Strategy.  DOC has had preliminary talks with iwi, landowners, farmers, scientists and young people and with three reference groups – Te Ao Maori, science and technical, and stakeholders to find out what their aspirations are for biodiversity and what would help them to succeed.

It is vital that the Department and Government hear what others think and believe given that this will be a strategy for all New Zealanders.

The discussion document proposes that Aotearoa/New Zealand should be a place where ecosystems are healthy, they are resilient to climate change and other pressures, where indigenous species are abundant, and part of our everyday lives.

It also proposes that to make a difference in our lives, the mauri - the living essence - of nature and of people must be restored. Interconnectedness, resilience and wellbeing of nature should be prioritised. If we are true guardians of nature, nature will look after us.

During August and September 2019 DOC will be engaging with iwi and hapu around the country, running public workshops, and receiving submissions. There are ways to join the conversation online and a new platform to encourage young people to be involved.

As much as a strategy is about the plight of threatened species and places, it must also be about people, about hearts and minds and values. Changes in behaviour and the way many view, use, and consider nature are essential for progress toward a better future for te taio and our connection with nature.

Your thoughts will help shape the new strategy. For us to succeed, we need to all have a say.