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Kiwi habitat set to be rolled, crushed and burned

August 6, 2002

Important kiwi habitat set to be rolled, crushed and burned

Kiwi habitat near Wanganui is set to be rolled, crushed and burned for pastoral farming in the next few weeks, says Forest and Bird.

“Despite declining Kiwi numbers throughout New Zealand the habitat of our national emblem is still being destroyed”, said Forest and Bird’s Conservation Manager, Eric Pyle.

The vegetation clearance will cover 85 ha in the Waitotara catchment inland of Wanganui. North Island Brown Kiwi have been found by DoC staff in the area proposed to be cleared. Scrub cutting operations are already under way.

“In many parts of the country the Department of Conservation and communities are working hard to save the Kiwi”, says Mr Pyle. “Yet here we have a situation where kiwi habitat is going to be destroyed and kiwi potentially killed.” It is unlikely all kiwi will be removed from the area and other kiwi could move in to the vacant habitat before the area is burnt.

Forest and Bird is calling for an end to the clearance of Kiwi habitat. “Our national emblem needs to be given every chance to survive,” says Mr Pyle. “If we are to avoid the extinction of Kiwi on the mainland we need to stop its habitat from being destroyed.

“It is ironic that at a time when many are talking about streamlining the RMA we find it is not adequately protecting the habitat of our national emblem” says Mr Pyle.

“If one of the large forestry companies wanted to clear this land and plant it in pines they would not be able to under the NZ Forest Accord” says Mr Pyle. “The pastoral sector needs to learn from the forestry sector.”

“In the rough inland Wanganui country, it is likely to be more profitable in the long term to save the Kiwi and run ecotourism ventures based on seeing Kiwi,” says Mr Pyle. “It is marginal sheep farming country. We encourage the farmer to save the Kiwi - it could make economic sense in the long term”. Forest and Bird will continue to press the South Taranaki District Council and the Department of Conservation to find a solution and save this kiwi habitat.

Notes

Decline in kiwi

Eighty years ago there were an estimated five million kiwi in New Zealand. Today there are around fifty thousand outside of Stewart Island and numbers are declining rapidly.

Kiwi Habitat loss

Forest and Bird estimates that in Northland, one of the last strong holds of Kiwi, 1900 ha of significant Kiwi habitat was destroyed since 1994. This demonstrates that the clearance of Kiwi habitat in New Zealand is not yet over.

The Department of Conservation is authorising the removal of the Kiwi to another area. While this is a protective measure this was the approach of the 1980s. A better option is to protect the animals and their habitat.

The fact that Kiwi are still present shows that this area is good habitat. The area they will be moved to may not as good habitat, for example, it may have higher predator numbers.

District Plan

Under the Resource Management Act (RMA), land and vegetation clearance and habitat protection is controlled through district plans. The relevant district council is the South Taranaki District Council. The District Plan, when proposed, had no rules controlling indigenous vegetation clearance or destruction of habitats. As a result of the plan submission and hearing process (including submissions by Forest and Bird and DoC) the plan was amended to include rules controlling some vegetation clearance. However, the under the plan important habitats can still be destroyed. Forest and Bird is seeking stronger plan provisions through an appeal to the Environment Court. Federated Farmers has also appealed the plan and seeks to weaken the plan to make it easier to clear indigenous vegetation (and therefore easier to clear kiwi habitat).

Forest and Bird has been in touch with the District Council on this issue.

National Policy Statement

The Ministry for Environment is preparing a National Policy Statement (NPS) on Indigenous Biodiversity under the RMA. The NPS aims to provide direction to councils on how biodiversity should be managed and protected. This current situation highlights the need for a strong NPS that directs councils to include comprehensive rules in district and regional plans. At the very least a notified resource consent should be required for activities that can damage the habitats of threatened species such as Kiwi; ideally clearance of habitat of threatened species should be banned.

What should happen

- A resource consent should be sought for clearance of this land. As part of this process a proper survey of the site should be done. The clearance activity should be stopped in the meantime.

- Rules in plans throughout the country should be required to protect kiwi habitat and other endangered species.

Ideally, the habitat should not be cleared and a community-based Kiwi programme should be established to save the Kiwi. These programmes are occurring in other parts of the country and are proving successful at saving Kiwi.


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