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Forest & Bird is beginning a court battle to protect the habitat of New Zealand’s most endangered bird, the fairy tern or tara iti.

The conservation organisation has filed an Environment Court appeal against Northland Regional Council over its proposed regional plan.

The appeal calls for the council to protect mangrove forests, which provide vital habitat for New Zealand fairy terns, says Forest & Bird northern regional manager Nick Beveridge.

“There are only about 36 tara iti left in the world, so we need to make sure the places where they feed and breed are not disturbed or destroyed,” Mr Beveridge says.

Critically endangered Australasian bitterns and threatened banded rails also live in Northland’s mangrove forests.

These rare birds could be pushed closer towards extinction if the Proposed Northland Regional Plan goes through, allowing people to remove up to 200 square metres of mangroves, Mr Beveridge says.

The plan marks out areas with significant birdlife, but does not impose any extra rules on mangrove removal or development in these areas.

Forest & Bird is calling for the plan to protect Significant Bird Areas in the same way that Significant Ecological Areas are protected from harmful development and from the removal of native trees, such as mangroves.

“At present, the plan provides better protection for cockle beds than it does for tara iti - it's just unbelievable.

“The plan is terribly deficient when it comes to protecting the habitat of our most endangered bird, the tara iti, which is just a heart-beat away from extinction.

“The Kaipara and Mangawhai harbours are critically important for the tara iti and the bittern, so it would be disastrous if large areas of mangroves were cleared,” says Mr Beveridge.

Stronger rules to ensure water quality is not degraded in lakes, rivers and streams are also called for in Forest & Bird’s appeal.

For more information, contact:

Nick Beveridge on 09 302 3901 or email
n.beveridge@forestandbird.org.nz

Northern communications officer Rose Davis on 09 302 0203 ext 302 or email r.davis@forestandbird.org.nz.

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