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Help For Islands To Fight Invading Alien Species

17 April 2002

Help For Island Nations To Fight Invading Alien Species

Conservation Minister Sandra Lee has launched an international initiative aimed at helping Island nations to step up their war on invasive alien species.

Ms Lee has told delegates gathered for a major Biodiversity conference in the Netherlands that the initiative aimed to boost the capacity of island nations to deal with pest species that threaten their native species or ecosystems.

Speaking at the pre-conference launch, Ms Lee said New Zealand would support an Invasive Species Specialist Group, set up by the World Conservation Union, and based in Auckland. She said the group would operate as a broker of information, expertise, techniques and funding. Its initial work would focus on gathering and pooling existing information so that it would be easy to find and use.

"The group plans to build up a comprehensive information base of expertise on biodiversity threats to Island nations, " she said. "The World Conservation Union's existing global invasive species database will be expanded. The group will also foster networks, promote the sharing of techniques and work towards setting up an independent pool of resources for emergency responses to new incursions of alien species. "

Ms Lee said in the face of such a vast number of threats to its biodiversity, New Zealand had been forced to develop successful strategies to combat pest species. "Invasive pests and weeds have become the greatest environmental threat facing our biodiversity on land," she said. "They even surpass habitat loss, which has been curbed through a range of actions such as the recent government decision to protect an additional 130,000 hectares of internationally significant rainforest on the west coast of the South Island."

Ms Lee said New Zealand expertise had already helped remove rats from Mauritius, cats from islands in the Pitcairn Group, rabbits and mice from Madeira, rabbits from the Azores and rodents from small islands in New Caledonia and Norfolk Island. "We are committed to sharing what we have learned, to help build international capacity."

Ends

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