Biodiversity is short for "biological diversity" - the number and variety of living things (animals, plants, insects, micro-organisms) found within a particular area and the complex relationships between them.

The Bay of Plenty still has about 66 percent of its original indigenous forest and scrub cover, but other ecosystem types do not fare as well. Only about 3 percent of our wetland area remains, 26 percent of our dunes (although much of these are heavily modified), and less than 30 percent of our geothermal vegetation.

Amongst the biodiversity that remains we have one or two species and ecosystems that are unique to the Bay of Plenty; including our own variety of kanuka at Thornton, the only known mainland populations (two) of the native broom Carmichaelia Williamsii, and the vast majority of the country's monoao dominated frost flats on the central plateau.  Several species reach their natural geographic limits within our region.

New Zealand's native biodiversity is unique due to its isolation as small islands in a vast ocean. The high percentage of endemic species (those found naturally nowhere else in the world) makes this biodiversity both special and highly vulnerable. It shapes our national identity and upholds our economy. We have an obligation to protect it for ourselves, our future generations and the rest of the world.

New Zealand's native biodiversity is in serious decline. Although New Zealand was one of the last places on earth to be settled by humans, it has one of the worst records of native biodiversity loss. Fire, land clearance, overexploitation of resources and introduced species have had a negative effect on native biodiversity. As a result, dozens of species have become extinct and an increasing number are now threatened with extinction.

We also need to protect our native biodiversity as it provides us with many 'services' such as water purification and regulation, creating and maintaining soils, nutrient cycling, pollination, valuable compounds (e.g. manuka oil), regulation of local climates and prevention of soil erosion. Protected areas also offer huge recreational and tourism opportunities. There is also untapped potential on the international market for carbon credit income from regenerating bush.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council has developed a voluntary programme to empower landowners and community groups to protect valuable sites of native biodiversity across the region. 

We have identified sites with particularly high biodiversity values on private land across the region. These are the largest and best quality of the only remaining examples of a particular biodiversity type. We work in partnership with landowners who would like to protect these sites. Larger sites may include parts of several land holdings where a group of landowners may wish to work together to protect the whole site.

There are other places, such as small bush remnants that have not been identified as being of outstanding value but which are still of great significance to those who own them. If a landowner is keen to protect such a place, then we are able to help.

Similarly, we are also able to support community care groups who wish to carry out protection work on publicly owned land in their local area which has significance for them and their community. Both Council and the care group work collaboratively with the landowner.

In each case a management plan based on clear objectives is drawn up collaboratively by the landowner(s) and a Bay of Plenty Regional Council Land Resources staff member. We can provide financial and technical assistance with the implementation of this plan. In some situations it may be appropriate to include assistance from other agencies with an interest in biodiversity protection and management.

If a landowner doesn't want to take this path, we are still always available to give advice.

Protection of the site from land use change is important. Covenants are the preferred type of protection but sometimes other options might be more suitable. There are a number of covenant options available. An information sheet explaining the various options is available from Bay of Plenty Regional Council staff.

In discussion with Council staff, the landowner determines the ecological objectives for the site and agrees to a collaborative management plan and its associated works within a specified timeframe of up to five years. Assistance and technical support is provided to carry out the agreed work but the landowner maintains ownership of the process. Once the initial protection work is completed, continuing support and regular monitoring of the site is provided. Landowners and the community are encouraged to take increasing ownership of the ongoing protection work and to seek additional sources of assistance.

The native biodiversity of a site is likely to be under threat from one or more sources. A number of interventions may be necessary to minimise those threats depending on the ecological objectives for the site:

  • Stock may need to be excluded from the site which will usually involve fencing.
  • Animal predators and browsers and invasive weeds will often need to be controlled.
  • Restoration work such as enhancement planting may be required.

Monitoring of the sites is provided and regular adjustment of control programmes may be required.

We are able to provide:

  • Information about the current ecological and archaeological state of the site at no cost to the landowner.
  • Aerial photos, maps etc.
  • Management advice and technical expertise.
  • A management plan.
  • Financial support through grants. The level of financial support will vary, depending on the nature of the site and the type of work required, ranging from 25 percent to 75 percent of the total cost.
  • Assistance and support in organising and implementing planned works.
  • Ongoing monitoring of protection work and biodiversity outcomes at no cost.

All protected sites remain in the ownership of the landowner and no right of public access is created.

The landowner will ensure that the management work agreed to in the management plan is carried out each council financial year.

The Management Plan Development Process

  1. The landowner or community group contacts Bay of Plenty Regional Council Land Resources staff with an expression of interest in the programme.
  2. A staff member is allocated to discuss biodiversity objectives for the site with all those involved.
  3. A decision is made by the partners in the project to proceed or not.
  4. A management plan is developed for the site in close collaboration with the landowner or community group and possibly other agencies with an interest in the site.
  5. The management plan is signed by all parties and will include an initial programme of work for up to five years, the costs associated with that work and the way the costs will be shared.
  6. A covenant is obtained.
  7. The landowner or community group begins the planned work.
  8. The staff member and landowner meet regularly to discuss progress and to plan ahead.
  9. Once the initial work is completed, the landowner maintains that work.
  10. Bay of Plenty Regional Council monitors the work annually and also monitors the outcomes as required at no cost to the landowner.
  11. At the end of the agreed timeframe, the landowner, staff and any other agencies involved review the management plan and its objectives and discuss management options for the future.

What's the next step?

If you want to find out more about setting up a Biodiversty Programme we have a number of highly skilled staff available to work with you. Start by contacting us at Bay of Plenty Regional Council and asking for a Land Management Officer in your area.