Auckland's rare bats could get a badly needed boost if a government plan to strengthen environmental policy goes through, says Forest & Bird.
Long tailed bats are ‘nationally critical’, while short-tailed bats are ‘nationally vulnerable’, so they urgently need the increased protection promised by the draft National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity, says Forest & Bird Northland and Auckland regional manager Nick Beveridge
Councils will need to map and take steps to protect areas that are used by bats and other highly mobile species if the policy is adopted.
“Bats can flutter across a home range 100 kilometres wide, so it’s vital their flyways are protected,” Mr Beveridge says.
“Auckland is home to two species of bats and not enough has been done to ensure their flyways are safe from development that would harm this endangered species.”
In Auckland in 2013, 48 percent of native birds and 71 per cent of native lizards were nationally threatened, Mr Beveridge says.
“This proposed policy is the best chance we’ve had in 35 years of making a change for the better for our native wildlife,” he says.
Councils will need to make sure there is at least 10 percent native tree and plant cover in urban and rural areas if the draft policy is adopted.They are also asked to aim for increased native tree planting.
“Thousands of trees have been felled in Auckland since 2012, when the government changed the Resource Management Act, leaving the council no choice but to remove blanket tree protection. We desperately need something to turn the tide,” says Mr Beveridge.
“Trees provide vital habitat for our endangered native wildlife. Increasing this habitat in urban areas will benefit tui, kereru and our rarer birds, such as kaka, which are spotted in the city regularly."
The draft biodiversity policy, which is open for feedback from the public until 14 March, includes stronger requirements for councils to map and protect significant natural areas on private land. These are areas featuring important native plants, trees, or wildlife, says Mr Beveridge.
“Councils would need to protect these areas from development that could push rare wildlife closer to extinction – and we totally support that,” he says.
“Development outside these significant natural areas would also need to avoid harming native species.”
Forest & Bird supports an option in the policy for public conservation land to automatically have the status of a significant natural area.
“Our wildlife has no idea if it lives on public or private land, so proper protection is needed in parks and on private properties,” Mr Beveridge says.
Another point Forest & Bird is delighted to see in the draft policy is a requirement for councils to consider climate change when they make decisions about activities that pose a risk to native species and their habitats.
A bat photo by Laura Keown is available to download here.