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World Environment Day: Facing the truth about New Zealand's biodiversity crisis

With 4000 native species at risk of, or facing extinction, New Zealand's biodiversity is under serious threat. 

On World Environment Day, it’s easy to feel almost smug here in New Zealand as we take in the beautiful landscapes, lakes, rivers and forests that we are still privileged to see gracing our shores. It's true that for some of us, the effects of climate change and pollution might not look as immediately evident here in New Zealand, but that doesn't mean we've avoided environmental crisis.

The damning Environment Aotearoa 2019 report released by the Ministry for the Environment in April, revealed that our country’s biodiversity is in fact, under serious threat, with close to 4000 native species already at risk or facing extinction.

Among them are one of the rarest birds in the world, the kākāpō a large, nocturnal, flightless, parrot which is still at extremely low numbers of 142 despite dedicated efforts of conservation groups. 

And our native trees and plants look set to fare no better. Kauri dieback disease is killing one of Aotearoa/New Zealand’s taonga – our unique kauri forests which grow throughout the upper North Island. Our pōhutukawa, mānuka, kānuka and rātā are also facing a new threat in the form of myrtle rust, a disease that arrived on shores in 2017 which is capable of infecting entire species.

So what can be done to save our native birds and forests? And is there something that every New Zealander can do to make a difference?

We already have the technology at our fingertips to help us build more resilient ecosystems, restore our biodiversity and protect our indigenous wildlife. It’s our very own native trees.

Planting more native trees is a viable, long-term solution for stabilising our climate and building resilient ecosystems that are less susceptible to disease. If our native trees are under threat, then so are the native birds and insects that seek them for food and shelter.

We have a short window in which to make a difference, otherwise our indigenous species will be lost forever. Protecting native trees and restoring wildlife corridors around the country is a powerful way we can continue to provide healthy habitats and ecosystems so our bird taonga and native trees will survive into the future.

So, what can you do to make a difference?

  • Plant a native tree, take the time to find something eco-sourced to succeed in your area. Local councils offer guides on what's best to plant depending on your region.

  • Volunteer your time with a local planting group. There are planting groups and projects happening all over the country with people working to restore areas under threat and also creating brand new wildlife corridors.

  • If you can’t plant a tree, you can fund or gift one. Trees That Count connects funded trees with the planting groups around the country, helping them achieve more with their projects. You can also set up tree registries to rally friends and family to donate trees for a good cause, or for birthdays and weddings.