Urgent need to invest in protecting native bird species

LETTER

Tourists will come to the rescue of New Zealand’s endangered bird species if a recommendation from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is adopted . . . although the Government seems lukewarm on the idea, which is also strongly opposed by the tourism industry.

Jan Wright’s last major report, Taonga of a Nation: Saving New Zealand’s Birds, paints a grim picture. One third of our 168 native bird species, including the iconic kea, two species of kiwi and the whio/blue duck, face extinction and 90 percent of our seabirds are threatened.

She says the Government’s Predator Free 2050 scheme is a big step forward but there are not enough details on how it can be achieved, and it will take a lot more money to turn things around.

Dr Wright also suggests some form of genetic engineering might be needed to control pests, and wants to continue the use of 1080 poison bait aerial drops in inaccessible areas.

Nobody is questioning her data, so it raises the issue of what can be done about it. Dr Wright’s proposed solution is to levy all incoming tourists to raise some of the urgently needed funds.

The Government is extremely cool on this, preferring a lift in charges for the country’s Great Walks to generate new revenue for protecting biodiversity. It also says a chief executive for Predator Free 2050 will be announced next week and an action plan is being prepared.

Tourism Aotearoa CEO Chris Roberts points out reasonably that tourists are not responsible for the dire state of New Zealand’s birds. Others say it will be seen as a rip-off, about as popular as a tourist border levy or Phil Goff’s bed tax for Auckland hotels.

Jan Wright has been a strongly independent and outspoken public appointee who is never afraid to take a controversial position, such as supporting greater use of 1080. She is the kind of public servant a progressive, independent country needs.

Dr Wright’s 10 years in the role ends in October and it is essential the Government finds someone of similar ability and integrity to replace her.

Tourists will come to the rescue of New Zealand’s endangered bird species if a recommendation from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is adopted . . . although the Government seems lukewarm on the idea, which is also strongly opposed by the tourism industry.

Jan Wright’s last major report, Taonga of a Nation: Saving New Zealand’s Birds, paints a grim picture. One third of our 168 native bird species, including the iconic kea, two species of kiwi and the whio/blue duck, face extinction and 90 percent of our seabirds are threatened.

She says the Government’s Predator Free 2050 scheme is a big step forward but there are not enough details on how it can be achieved, and it will take a lot more money to turn things around.

Dr Wright also suggests some form of genetic engineering might be needed to control pests, and wants to continue the use of 1080 poison bait aerial drops in inaccessible areas.

Nobody is questioning her data, so it raises the issue of what can be done about it. Dr Wright’s proposed solution is to levy all incoming tourists to raise some of the urgently needed funds.

The Government is extremely cool on this, preferring a lift in charges for the country’s Great Walks to generate new revenue for protecting biodiversity. It also says a chief executive for Predator Free 2050 will be announced next week and an action plan is being prepared.

Tourism Aotearoa CEO Chris Roberts points out reasonably that tourists are not responsible for the dire state of New Zealand’s birds. Others say it will be seen as a rip-off, about as popular as a tourist border levy or Phil Goff’s bed tax for Auckland hotels.

Jan Wright has been a strongly independent and outspoken public appointee who is never afraid to take a controversial position, such as supporting greater use of 1080. She is the kind of public servant a progressive, independent country needs.

Dr Wright’s 10 years in the role ends in October and it is essential the Government finds someone of similar ability and integrity to replace her.

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