GDC launches search for high conservation areas

File picture

GISBORNE District Council has launched a project to identify the district’s remaining areas of native vegetation with high biodiversity and conservation values.

So far, the Biodiversity Gap Analysis Project has identified there are potentially 110,000 hectares of indigenous vegetation not under any form of protection.

Council senior policy adviser Abigail Salmond, leading the project, said at present they were simply identifying what was out there.

Later on they would work with landowners to assist with protecting the land, if there was a desire to do so.

“The work we are doing is not a form of protection of these areas. It is simply telling us what we have left, so we can develop more strategic ways to manage these areas, or support others to manage them.”

There is 271,769ha of indigenous vegetation in the district, or 32.53 percent of total land.

About 101,950ha is protected as either Department of Conservation land, or by QEII or Nga Whenua Rahui covenant, and a further 58,000ha is listed by the council as protection management areas (PMAs).

“That means there is around 110,000ha of vegetation that is indigenous and not protected,” Ms Salmond said.

PMAs are subject under the council’s district plan to a separate set of rules regarding the ability to remove or damage vegetation on them.

“They are our most valuable sites to protect for conservation purposes,” Ms Salmond said.

PMAs came from DoC surveys in the district (private and public) in the 1980s to determine which areas of indigenous vegetation were most valuable to protect for conservation purposes.

The council then took the best of these and made them PMAs.

Outdated map

“The problem is this map is from the 1980s,” Ms Salmond said.

“We wanted to know, are there other areas we should be aware of?

“The data analysis programme used for this work applies existing data to determine where this remaining 110,000ha is likely to be the most valuable to manage to keep the district’s biodiversity from disappearing.

“These areas will likely be the most rare types of forest and wetland that are not protected.

“As this is a desktop survey, the next step is to look at as many of these places as we can on the ground to see if they do exist and what state they are in.

“Are those areas still wetland or have they been drained? Is it still forest or is it now a weedy mess?

“Once this is done we can prioritise the most ecologically-significant places in our region for management.

“We have a lot of beech forest in the ranges, but less wetland and lowland kahikatea forest. Those are priority areas."

Management can mean anything from implementing pest control as part of our site-led pest management programme, to providing technical support for the landowner(s) to protect and restore the areas.

“This is a reminder to look after our biodiversity, even if it may not be protected under the district plan, as it provides many crucial services to us, erosion control and protecting waterways to name just two.

“It is also exciting that we have these areas left to showcase the unique biodiversity of our region, and there are opportunities to protect them and restore them, through agencies such as QEII and Nga Whenua Rahui.”

Private land

Most of the remaining special areas were on private land, and the council would work with landowners once the areas were identified, she said.

“We know that looking after these places requires time and resources.

“That is why we want to hear from people who are keen to look after them, so that we can help provide technical support on ecological restoration and direct interested landowners to potential funding sources.”

Over summer the council team will check existing PMAs to assist supporting landowners to look after them.

“We are really keen to hear from people who have existing PMAs on their property, who would like us to come out this summer and have a look, and provide them with some technical advice on management and other avenues of support.”

GISBORNE District Council has launched a project to identify the district’s remaining areas of native vegetation with high biodiversity and conservation values.

So far, the Biodiversity Gap Analysis Project has identified there are potentially 110,000 hectares of indigenous vegetation not under any form of protection.

Council senior policy adviser Abigail Salmond, leading the project, said at present they were simply identifying what was out there.

Later on they would work with landowners to assist with protecting the land, if there was a desire to do so.

“The work we are doing is not a form of protection of these areas. It is simply telling us what we have left, so we can develop more strategic ways to manage these areas, or support others to manage them.”

There is 271,769ha of indigenous vegetation in the district, or 32.53 percent of total land.

About 101,950ha is protected as either Department of Conservation land, or by QEII or Nga Whenua Rahui covenant, and a further 58,000ha is listed by the council as protection management areas (PMAs).

“That means there is around 110,000ha of vegetation that is indigenous and not protected,” Ms Salmond said.

PMAs are subject under the council’s district plan to a separate set of rules regarding the ability to remove or damage vegetation on them.

“They are our most valuable sites to protect for conservation purposes,” Ms Salmond said.

PMAs came from DoC surveys in the district (private and public) in the 1980s to determine which areas of indigenous vegetation were most valuable to protect for conservation purposes.

The council then took the best of these and made them PMAs.

Outdated map

“The problem is this map is from the 1980s,” Ms Salmond said.

“We wanted to know, are there other areas we should be aware of?

“The data analysis programme used for this work applies existing data to determine where this remaining 110,000ha is likely to be the most valuable to manage to keep the district’s biodiversity from disappearing.

“These areas will likely be the most rare types of forest and wetland that are not protected.

“As this is a desktop survey, the next step is to look at as many of these places as we can on the ground to see if they do exist and what state they are in.

“Are those areas still wetland or have they been drained? Is it still forest or is it now a weedy mess?

“Once this is done we can prioritise the most ecologically-significant places in our region for management.

“We have a lot of beech forest in the ranges, but less wetland and lowland kahikatea forest. Those are priority areas."

Management can mean anything from implementing pest control as part of our site-led pest management programme, to providing technical support for the landowner(s) to protect and restore the areas.

“This is a reminder to look after our biodiversity, even if it may not be protected under the district plan, as it provides many crucial services to us, erosion control and protecting waterways to name just two.

“It is also exciting that we have these areas left to showcase the unique biodiversity of our region, and there are opportunities to protect them and restore them, through agencies such as QEII and Nga Whenua Rahui.”

Private land

Most of the remaining special areas were on private land, and the council would work with landowners once the areas were identified, she said.

“We know that looking after these places requires time and resources.

“That is why we want to hear from people who are keen to look after them, so that we can help provide technical support on ecological restoration and direct interested landowners to potential funding sources.”

Over summer the council team will check existing PMAs to assist supporting landowners to look after them.

“We are really keen to hear from people who have existing PMAs on their property, who would like us to come out this summer and have a look, and provide them with some technical advice on management and other avenues of support.”

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