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Environment Court Ruling Will Save Rare Plants

Forest & Bird is relieved that an urgent court order has been granted to protect a highly significant ecosystem at Kaitorete, a narrow stretch of ecologically significant land between Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere and the sea.

Forest & Bird applied to the Environment Court for the interim enforcement orders on Monday 27 April, alongside the Director-General of Conservation and Te Taumutu Rūnanga, Wairewa Rūnanga and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

The orders now granted prevent activities including spraying with herbicide, cultivation or removal of native plants in some paddocks of the Wongan Hills farm. Critically, the order also prevents some paddocks with extremely high values being grazed with cattle.

Spokespersons for Te Taumutu and Wairewa Rūnanga said: “Kaitorete is a culturally significant area for Te Taumutu and Wairewa Rūnanga and has been for many generations.

“As mana whenua of Kaitorete, we have been working extremely hard with Forest & Bird, the Department of Conservation, Christchurch City Council and Environment Canterbury to find solutions to the current issues on the farm and prevent any further damage.

“We are committed to protecting the land and its cultural and ecological values. We will continue to uphold our kaitiakitanga values and ensure that further destruction of very rare and at-risk flora and fauna does not occur.”

The vast majority of the wild population of Muehlenbeckia astonii, or shrubby tororaro, exist on only this one farm at Kaitorete. 

“While we’re relieved that the remaining shrubby tororaro will be safer, for the moment, this is really the best that could be made of a bad situation,” says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague. “Significant loss has already occurred.”

In 2018 Forest & Bird sought enforcement orders against Wongan Hills farm after evidence showed clearance and by spraying, cultivating and oversowing damaged or destroyed nearly 30 percent of the total nationwide wild population of the plant. The case then moved to mediation for some time. 

“The problem all along has been unclear and badly written rules, which were passed under urgency following the Christchurch Earthquakes,” says Mr Hague. 

“We’ve seen unjustified and environmentally damaging removal of native vegetation time and time again, especially in Canterbury. This is a particularly stark example but it’s by no means the only one – the rules and definitions are just not adequate.”

© Scoop Media

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