Environment Waikato is working with other agencies, community groups, Crown research institutes, iwi and others to preserve the Region’s variety of natural life.
This week’s Policy Committee heard that the Council is developing programmes that build on work already undertaken in the Region to develop cost effective ways of maximising individual effort for real, on-the-ground results.
Ecologist Karen Denyer said the 1997 New Zealand State of the Environment Report identified the loss of indigenous biodiversity – the diversity of natural plants, animals and ecosystems – as the country’s greatest environmental problem. The Waikato Report the following year noted than more than 75 percent of natural areas in the Waikato Region had been lost, and about 100 species, including 30 percent of indigenous freshwater fish, were threatened with extinction in the Region.
Pests were an ongoing threat to almost all ecosystems and significant effects were happening on marine habitats at a time when knowledge and appreciation of them was still in the discovery phase.
Strong central Government interest and public knowledge and concern about the issue was growing.
A Regional Biodiversity Forum was convened in May this year to progress projects and act as a body for robust discussion on the biological diversity of the Region. A focus group of management agencies, tangata whenua, Crown research institutes and key people representing farming and conservation interests is assisting the Forum to foster collaboration.
It was identifying the pressures and challenges, recognising existing activities and working with Regional partners.
The Council had developed a Biodiversity Action Plan to ensure the Region maintained the types of habitat which made the area unique and incorporating actions in the Council’s Annual Plan. The groups were ready to respond to national initiatives and funding opportunities to enhance and maintain biodiversity in the Region.
Cr Andra Neeley said it would be necessary to get people on side in preserving biodiversity and wanting it themselves or there could be problems in protection on private land. Cr Helen Lane said geothermal areas would need special attention and the Council needed to raise understanding and recognition of the value of geothermal systems.