From mountain peaks to coral beds, New Zealand is home to spectacular landscapes and seascapes. The first humans reached New Zealand only 700 years ago, making it the last large landmass to be settled by people. The geographic isolation that led to this late settling also contributed to New Zealand’s unique biodiversity, and now more than 70 percent of the country’s birds, bats, land reptiles, frogs and plants are found nowhere else on Earth, including iconic flightless birds such as the kiwi, takahe and kakapo.
In addition, New Zealand straddles sub-tropical and sub-Antarctic waters, making its marine biodiversity also particularly rich and complex, with as many as 65,000 species populating its coastal waters and deep oceans. These include whales, dolphins, fur seals and seabirds, as well as more penguin species than anywhere in the world.
However, development is now putting pressure on these important natural assets. In the last few decades, pressing environmental challenges — nearshore habitat loss, ocean habitat degradation, deepwater mining, invasive species and freshwater depletion and pollution — are threatening New Zealand’s unique biodiversity. As a result, New Zealand has one of the highest rates of at-risk species in the world.
Working with local communities, Maori, business, other NGOs and government, The Nature Conservancy has the opportunity to address these challenges while also expanding our global conservation impact.
Fortunately, New Zealanders have a deep commitment to working together to find solutions to its environmental challenges–environmental sustainability is critical to the long-term viability of its seafood, dairy, livestock and tourism industries.
Since the launch of our New Zealand program in 2016, The Nature Conservancy has identified three areas where we can make an immediate and lasting impact on conservation in the country. Working with partners and the government, we will focus on strengthening the management of rivers and seascapes while also exporting and scaling successful conservation solutions from New Zealand across Asia Pacific. How New Zealanders address their environmental challenges can help inform solutions elsewhere, providing a model for approaches that support more sustainable practices.