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'Wildlink' aims to bring back native wildlife

28 February

New Auckland 'Wildlink' aims to bring back native wildlife

28 February 2006: A groundbreaking new regional initiative was signed today which aims to provide safe and healthy habitats for native wildlife in the Auckland region.

The new initiative also aims to increase community participation in environmental care and to foster collaboration and communication between local and national government, community groups and individuals. The initiative is the first of its kind in the country seeking to have local and national government join together with community groups to co-ordinate conservation efforts towards a significant vision of biodiversity restoration.

The "North-West Wildlink" Accord was signed by the Mayors from Waitakere City Council, North Shore City Council, Rodney District Council, and representatives from Auckland Regional Council, Forest & Bird and the Department of Conservation (DOC), formalising how the agencies will work together to forward the initiative. A regional hui and community forum will be held over the next couple of months to discuss iwi and community involvement.

ARC Parks and Heritage Committee Chair, Sandra Coney says a co-ordinated approach in the region is the most effective way to address biodiversity conservation and community participation issues.

"By focusing on existing and potential restoration projects we will create a patchwork of safe and healthy 'stepping stones' to connect two of the region's biodiversity hotspots - the Hauraki Gulf Islands and the Waitakere Ranges," says Cr. Coney.

Waitakere City Council mayor Bob Harvey says "North-West Wildlink" extends his Council's existing Green Network concept.

"It's an immense step forward for councils to be working cooperatively in the cause of biodiversity. Linking green areas has a beneficial effect on people as well as nature," says Waitakere City Mayor Bob Harvey.

Forest & Bird Central Auckland Branch Chair and National Executive member Anne Fenn says that the new initiative developed out of Forest & Bird's 'Auckland Naturally' project which already promotes a similar approach to community-based conservation throughout the region.

"This is an exciting new initiative that aims to connect local communities with conservation projects that bring native birds back into urban areas where they can be appreciated by the wider community," says Anne Fenn.

Forest & Bird branches are already involved in many conservation projects across the North-West Wildlink zone, alongside numerous other community groups. The island sanctuary of Tiritiri Matangi Island and the 'Ark in the Park' project in the Waitakere Ranges provide significant areas of safe habitat for native birds, many of which will be able to expand into surrounding urban areas as a result of this project.

North Shore City Mayor George Wood says one of the key strengths of the NWW is that it doesn't just focus on one aspect of the environment.

"It brings together all aspects, from protected island sanctuaries, to our very own backyards. And herein lies a second key strength of North-West Wildlink. As well as the focus on the environment, it also ingrains community partnerships within its objectives.

"In North Shore City the North-West Wildlink gives us a geographic vehicle to focus environmental and community partnership objectives. Not only is it incorporated as a strategic goal of our Open Spaces Strategy, but it will also help us focus community and school education programmes and projects on private land such as Nature for Neighbourhoods," says Mr Wood.

Rodney District Council's Senior Policy Advisor, Maximus Smitheram, acknowledges the important role Rodney has to play.

"The remnants of lowland forest and wetlands in the Rodney District provide important linkages and habitats for flora and fauna between the Hauraki Gulf and other parts of the region and contribute significantly to lowland coastal ecosystems."

"We look forward to working closely with our accord partners and our dedicated community groups to help protect and improve these natural assets for the benefit of all," says Mr Smitheram.

Department of Conservation Community Relations Officer, Bill Trusewich says that co-operative participation in conservation by individuals, families, community groups, businesses and government will produce a very powerful outcome.

"Returning what is considered New Zealand's most urban environment into a thriving natural place will have huge benefits to social cohesion, 'Clean-Green' tourism-based economics and appreciation of and respect for cultural values. We hope to be able to take the massive groundswell of volunteerism already taking place off its own bat and empower it to produce an active support network and large-scale collective vision."

ENDS

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