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Initiatives to save New Zealand endangered species

9 December 2004

Major research initiatives to save New Zealand endangered species

The development of biological control methods to reduce possums is one of a number of innovative research programmes that are to be undertaken shortly to protect New Zealand's natural ecosystems.

The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology today announced that it has so far selected five programmes out of a number of high quality proposals to the value of $13 million per annum - with more to be announced later in 2005. These decisions are part of an investment round in the 'natural ecosystems' area which includes the preservation and protection of endangered species, flora, fauna, rivers and marine environments. It also includes proposals to deal with possums and other pests.

Landcare Research will head a project that leads to a better understanding and management of natural ecosystems. Scientists have discovered that in order to save endangered species such as the kiwi and kokako from extinction, they need to have better understanding of the wider ecosystem. Landcare Research will work with a number of other organisations including the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Tuhoe Tauwhenua Trust to achieve this outcome.

Crop & Food Research-in collaboration with HortResearch, Forest Research and AgResearch-is to develop methods and technologies that will help prevent harmful organisms invading New Zealand and damaging the country's ecosystems and agricultural base.

AgResearch and Landcare Research will work on a project to develop biological control methods to deal with possums, which cause massive damage to native trees, eat the eggs of some endangered species of birds and also carry bovine tuberculosis which is harmful to the nations beef, dairy and deer industries. The two CRIs will work with a number of organisations involved in possum control including DOC, regional councils, the Animal Health Board and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Another key programme to be undertaken by Landcare Research involves adding to national databases, species in New Zealand which no one has put a name to yet and about which little or nothing is known. This work in defining New Zealand's terrestrial biota will assist conservation and policy managers in making robust decisions on conservation management.

The final programme approved so far involves research into saving remnants of native ecosystems and looking at ways of restoring degraded natural environments. Landcare Research will also lead this project.

Dr John Smart, Group Manager Investments for the Foundation, says the projects approved so far will contribute much to improving the natural ecosystems of New Zealand by controlling known pests and predators. He says the projects will also lead to a better understanding of New Zealand's delicate natural ecosystem.

According to Dr Smart, a key feature of the new contracts is the level of collaboration that has been achieved between those carrying out the research and those organisations who will be using it. He says the programme involving Crop & Food and several partners is an excellent example of the collaboration achieved which will result in the best possible outcomes for New Zealand.

Dr Smart says the new investment contracts are longer that those previously negotiated which recognises the ongoing need to gather certain data of national significance. He says the collection of such data is critical to the management of the country's ecosystems. He says the research is carefully targeted to achieve specific outcomes.

Dr Smart says that for the first time the Foundation is trialling a new process for investing in research programmes known as 'outcome based investments' (OBIs). This system places the emphasis on the final outcomes of the research and gives the researchers some flexibility in how they go about the work. He says if this process is deemed to be successful, it will be applied to other investment rounds in the future.


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