Forest & Bird is welcoming new protected areas as a starting point for improving protection of the Mackenzie Basin, but lamenting the vast areas which remain unprotected.
"If you look at the map of Tū Te Rakiwhānoa Drylands, it's clear too much of the Mackenzie Basin remains at risk," says Forest & Bird Regional Conservation Manager Nicky Snoyink.
"The new protected areas demonstrate that a range of methods can be used to achieve better outcomes for native species and landscapes. With the end of tenure review, thinking outside the box will be vital to build on this work.”
The NZ Defence Force (NZDF) has added the largest new chunk of additional protection to Tū Te Rakiwhānoa Drylands. The NZDF will manage almost 15,000 hectares of the Tekapo Military Training Area to protect landscape and biodiversity values.
In recent years, the Mackenzie Basin has seen New Zealand’s fastest rate of biodiversity loss. We’ve already lost more than 70 percent of our original drylands.
"The Mackenzie Basin is a remarkable place, with critical habitat for endangered wading birds like kakī (black stilt), and rare plant species found nowhere else in the world," says Ms Snoyink.
This unique dryland ecosystem has low rainfall and is dominated by shrubs, tussock grasses, and specially adapted plants and animals.
"Widespread irrigation and dairy conversions have been turning our natural drylands into green grass, and it's still happening."
"The new protected area announced by Minister Sage today is absolutely critical for saving these remaining precious tussock drylands. Forest & Bird is proud to have worked alongside other conservation groups to achieve this initial protection."
Tussock drylands cover just 19% of New Zealand's land area and contain up to half of Aotearoa's most threatened native plants.
"We’re honestly at a tipping point now, where opportunities for protecting these unique areas are closing forever. The Minister's announcement today is a good start, but it will be critical to get further protection for this area before more of our unique plants and animals are lost," says Ms Snoyink.