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A Million Dollar Biodiversity Question

Media Statement 2 May 2005

A million dollar biodiversity question

How do you motivate private landowners to protect and enhance biodiversity on their land?

A project led by AgResearch will receive investment of more than a million dollars over four years from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology to answer this question.

Over the last 200 years, sixty-three percent of New Zealand's land area has been converted into farms, exotic forests, settlements and roads. In the last century, some parcels of land have been set aside from production for conservation purposes. However most of this has been in upland and mountainous terrain and now some examples of lowland ecology are only found on privately owned land or have become isolated within urban expansion.

The research team will work with councils and government agencies to develop and test policies for encouraging people to voluntarily take steps towards establishing, protecting and enhancing biodiversity habitats on their own land.

The project will use three regions where lowland native vegetation is at risk-Auckland, Bay of Plenty and Wellington-as case studies. In these areas landowners will be encouraged to develop 'biodiversity corridors' to join existing bush remnants.

Biodiversity corridors can provide shelter, food, and breeding opportunities for animals as well as at-risk plants. The corridors could take the form of shelter belts, riparian (riverside) strips, wetlands, woodlots, ecological gardens, ecologically protected housing development and industrial screening.

Trialling policies in these regions will allow the research team to produce frameworks and guidelines for use by policy agencies that intend to develop voluntary behavioural change strategies of their own, says project leader Terry Parminter.

Mr Parminter says staff from regional councils involved in designing the project have confirmed that existing policy strategies have limitations for encouraging voluntary biodiversity management.

The project will examine and adapt different possible policy approaches such as specialised forms of communication, public education, and economic incentives.

A large number of councils and government agencies will be involved in the project, including the Auckland Regional Council, Environment Bay of Plenty, Greater Wellington and MAF, and informal liaison with DoC and MfE.

Staff in other councils and policy agencies will be provided with training workshops and newsletters as the project proceeds. Conferences will be held at the start and the end of the project to update biodiversity specialists in New Zealand on policy principles and practical examples from social research theory.

ENDS

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