15. NATURAL HERITAGE AND BIOSECURITY
NGAA TAONGA MAAROI TUKU IHO ME TE AARAI TAIAO
15.1.1 The Waikato-Tainui rohe is home to approximately 170 indigenous bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian, and freshwater fish species. Indigenous animals include the tuatara, pekapeka (long tailed bat), matuku (Australasian bittern), tuna (eel), whitebait, and very rare and endangered species such as native frogs. The rohe is also home to at least 900 known indigenous plant species. The indigenous plant and animal species found in the Waikato are valuable cultural resources, and in themselves serve as kaitiaki and natural indicators reflecting the health of the environment.
15.1.2 Prior to Raupatu, the region was renowned for the abundance of natural resources that lay within the rivers, lakes, wetlands and their catchments, and ngahere (native forests). The alluvial soils, sands and gravels carried and deposited by the rivers provided the beds and materials for Waikato-Tainui maara (gardens). Manu (birds) such as kiwi, kookako, kaakaa, tuuii, kereruu and hihi were found commonly throughout the ngahere. Valued weaving resources such as harakeke, kiekie (Freycinetia banksii), and ngaawhaa (Eleocharis sphacelata) graced many of the riverbanks and wetlands. Furthermore, Waikato-Tainui traditions speak of when the lakes and wetlands teemed with large numbers of tuna (eel), koura, whitebait and kaeo (freshwater mussels).
15.1.3 Post-1840, three-quarters of the indigenous vegetation of the Waikato has been removed to make way primarily for agricultural use. Eight of the nine indigenous ecosystem types found in the Waikato-Tainui rohe (as identified by the Waikato Biodiversity Forum), are threatened by a lack of adequate legal protection, incompatible adjacent land uses and human-related impacts within their catchments. The greatest losses have occurred in the lowland areas (18% indigenous ecosystems remaining); coastal zone (28 % remaining); and sub-montane zones (zones at the base or lower slopes of maunga) (34% remaining).
15.1.4 The loss of habitat and introduced pests (such as ship rats) have been a major reason for the decline and extinction of many native plant and animal species. 223 flora and fauna species are in decline or threatened with extinction in the Waikato Region (source: Waikato State of the Environment Report, 1998). Losing an indigenous species impacts on the whakapapa of the Waikato-Tainui landscape and threatens the viability of Waikato-Tainui culture and traditional activities. Extinctions or declines in a species or habitat have an impact on maatauranga (knowledge) about the ecosystem and environment and the information that can usefully be passed on to future generations.
15.1.5 Today, the Waikato-Tainui rohe provides habitat for at least three nationally endangered animal species: kaakaa, kookako, and the pekapeka (long tailed bat), and a declining species, the giant kookopuu. It is important to Waikato- Tainui that the remaining indigenous species are protected from further depletion and other threats to their wellbeing, and that their populations and habitats are enhanced and/or restored.
15.1.6 The introduction of foreign species into New Zealand ecosystems has also had devastating effects on native species and their habitats. Many of these introduced species are invasive pests (plants, animals, and micro-organisms) that have caused harm to the environment, economy, and/or human health.
15.1.7 Waikato-Tainui culture, tikanga and kawa has evolved with the indigenous flora and fauna of the tribal area. Waikato-Tainui are part of the natural heritage of the land and are at risk when the resources and taonga around them become depleted degraded or destroyed. The continued threat of invasive species to the delicate balance of the indigenous ecosystem is also a threat to the Waikato-Tainui way of life. The prevention of new pests and diseases from inhabiting the natural environment and the removal or reduction of pest species from existing natural areas is necessary to prevent the continued decline of remaining natural areas.
15.1.8 The Waikato Regional Council Significant Natural Areas (SNA ) programme helps to identify terrestrial and wetland habitats across the region. A complementary process could be developed to apply the ‘culturally significant’ wetlands to the SNA baseline and to apply Waikato-Tainui local knowledge to fill gaps (such as for smaller wetlands that are difficult to detect at the regional scale).
15.1.9 Genetic modification (GM) remains a controversial issue both globally and nationally. It is vital that Waikato-Tainui views and policies on the potential adverse consequences of GM are clearly outlined and recognised. Most importantly, Waikato-Tainui wants to avoid any disruption caused by Genetically Modified Organisms to the balance of indigenous ecosystems and/or to cultural beliefs and the whakapapa of taonga species.
Decreased indigenous biodiversity
15.2.1 The size, natural health, and ecological integrity of the remaining indigenous areas of vegetation within Waikato will continue to decline without additional effort to protect, and enhance them.
15.2.2 The loss of indigenous trees and plants from the productive and human-occupied landscape continues to compromise the health of the natural environment by lessening the area of suitable habitat for taonga species, severing the vegetation corridors that are essential for the dispersal of indigenous species, and reducing the contaminant buffering and cleansing function that indigenous vegetation can perform.
15.2.3 A significant number of native flora and fauna species in the Waikato Region continue to decline in abundance and geographic spread. Many of the species facing local and regional decline or extinction are of cultural and spiritual significance to Waikato-Tainui.
Impacts to the relationship between Waikato-Tainui and the environment
15.2.4 Since Raupatu, the impacts of changed land use has gradually depleted the natural and cultivated abundance of Waikato-Tainui resources, undermined the ability to manaaki, or care for our people and manuwhiri, which has consequently weakened environmental whakapapa and hence, the foundations of the relationship of Waikato-Tainui with the whenua.
Landscape planning and compromising of natural heritage
15.2.5 Waikato-Tainui are concerned that inefficient resource development, use, associated activities and infrastructure risks are compromising and depleting the remnants of natural vegetation that remain in the region and serve as a reminder of the original natural character of the landscape.
15.2.6 The indiscriminate use of indigenous plant material not sourced from local plant material (i.e. not eco-sourced) for restoration and development rehabilitation projects continues to alter the natural character of the region and the genetic composition of the remaining natural plant and animal populations. Such use needs to give consideration to strengthening the genetic pool of indigenous species.
15.2.7 Inadequate rural and urban design standards may allow ill-considered designs for dwellings and other structures to be built in areas of high natural character. This further detracts from the mauri of the land and weakens the connection with its natural, cultural, and spiritual foundations.
Biosecurity – plant and animal pests
15.2.8 Several of the 10 exotic fish species found in Waikato rivers, lakes, and wetlands pose a substantial threat to aquatic ecosystems. Koi carp, in particular, causes considerable damage to habitat, degrades water quality, and excludes native fish species.
15.2.9 Control of key vertebrate (animal) pests, such as possums, stoats, and ship rats is mainly concentrated in high priority conservation areas and is somewhat effective in arresting the decline of important threatened bird species. However, due to issues related to limited or poor planning, and/or limited funding and resourcing, pest control is not sufficient in many other areas of indigenous habitat. As a result there is a continued decline in several indigenous species of bird, reptile, frog, plant species, and an unknown number of invertebrates.
15.2.10 Some pests, such as cyanobacteria/blue-green algae, are not appropriately recognised in regional biosecurity and pest management policies despite the impact of this organism on customary practices such as hauanga kai and the associated ability to harvest kai.
15.2.11 Chemical herbicides and pesticides used to control weed and pest species have increasingly been developed to be more effective against target pests, less harmful to non-target species (species that the control agents are not intended to affect) and less persistent. However, some in current use are known to kill non-target species, some bio-accumulate (remain and increase in concentration in the environment), and some remain active in the soil for prolonged periods.
15.2.12 Biological Control Agents are alternatives to chemical control agents and are usually introduced species released into the environment to control another species. There is concern at the potential of biological control agents to affect nontarget species and that they may, themselves, establish as a pest species or a threat to indigenous biodiversity.
New organisms and Genetically Modified Organisms
15.2.13 New organisms continue to be introduced, either intentionally or unintentionally, or developed through genetic manipulation (GMO’s). Until proven otherwise, Waikato-Tainui remains concerned about the potential of these new organisms to attack, compete with, interbreed, or otherwise harm native and taonga species.
15.2.14 Waikato-Tainui also has a vested interest in protecting the economic sustainability of tribal members and/or tribal lands within the primary production sector, and the negative impacts on productivity which can be caused by the introduction of new organisms – whether GMO or otherwise. PSA (kiwifruit), varroa bee mite, and oyster herpes virus are examples of devastating biological outbreaks that risk creating severe economic loss and reduced capability.
15.3 Objectives, Policies & Methods
Objective – Indigenous Biodiversity
15.3.1 The full range of Waikato ecosystem types found throughout the Waikato-Tainui rohe are robust and support representative native flora and fauna.
Policy – Indigenous biodiversity
22.214.171.124 To ensure that the full range of Waikato ecosystem types found throughout the Waikato-Tainui rohe are robust and support representative native flora and fauna.
(a) Policies, planning, and best practice ensures no further net losses of ‘Priority Ecosystems’,4 and a measurable expansion of areas of Regionally and Culturally Significant Vegetation. These are areas of vegetation that Waikato-Tainui recognises as regionally, culturally and/or spiriturally significant.
(b) Waikato Regional Council and Waikato-Tainui work together to apply areas of significance to Waikato-Tainui to the Significant Natural Areas baseline to fill gaps (such as for smaller habitats that are difficult to detect at the regional scale).
(c) All permanent waterways within the rohe shall be fenced from livestock and planted, where appropriate, with indigenous vegetation to minimise the effects of land use practices, and enhance biodiversity.
(d) Locally sourced (eco-sourced) indigenous plant material shall be used for all plantings into or adjacent to areas of high ecological and conservation value in the region, and shall be encouraged for all landscape plantings in the tribal area. ‘Eco-sourced’ indigenous plant material may need to be sourced at some distance from the actual area to be planted to increase genetic resilience and diversity.
(e) Remnant stands of indigenous vegetation shall be retained, enhanced, and extended by fencing and planting and by the encouragement of landowners to take out protective covenants.
(f) The establishment and enhancement of ecological corridors linking areas of known high value indigenous habitat to be treated as a high priority within the relevant regional and local plans and strategies. These corridors should include, but are not limited to appropriate riparian margins, gully systems, esplanade reserves, and vegetation planted alongside road corridors.
(g) Waikato-Tainui involvement in local indigenous biodiversity strategies.
Objective – landscape planning and natural heritage
15.3.2 Cultural, spiritual and ecological features of the Waikato landscape that are significant to Waikato-Tainui are protected and enhanced to improve the mauri of the land.
Policy – landscape planning and natural heritage
126.96.36.199 To ensure that there is greater protection and enhancement of cultural, spiritual and ecological features of significance to Waikato-Tainui.
(a) Landscapes and view shafts that are regionally, culturally and/or spiritually significant shall be identified, protected from the adverse effects of development, and where possible, enhanced.
(b) Current and future developments (structures and earthworks) reduce the impacts on landscapes of high cultural, spiritual, ecological and/or aesthetic value through:
1. Protection of regional, cultural, and/or spiritual significant landscapes from development that will result in deterioration of existing landscape and natural values; and
ii. Utilising development and building methods that do not compromise Waikato-Tainui landscape values.
(c) Rural and urban design standards manage the effects on the natural character of existing high value areas.
(d) Establishment and enhancement of ecological corridors linking areas of known high value indigenous habitat shall be treated as high priority for the allocation of resources by the authorities responsible. These corridors will include riparian margins, gully systems, esplanade reserves, and vegetation alongside road corridors.
(e) Encouraging appropriate pest control to protect indigenous vegetation.
(f) Fencing and planting with indigenous vegetation occurs, where appropriate, along permanent waterways within the rohe, to manage the effects of land use practices and enhance biodiversity.
(g) Statutory instruments and methods promote the protection and restoration of landscapes and landscape values of importance to Waikato-Tainui.
(h) Waikato-Tainui, in conjunction with government authorities, resource users and conservation groups, will promote and support:
i. Education of the public, local authorities, developers, and other resource users on Waikato-Tainui values, regionally, culturally and/or spiritually significant landscapes, vegetation and species; and
ii. Promotion, including in schools and volunteer programmes, of the protection and sustainable utilisation of indigenous species.
Objective – biosecurity risks
15.3.3 Priority plant and animal pests are appropriately identified, managed, and/or controlled to a level where their impacts are minor or, where possible, are eradicated.
Policy – mitigation of biosecurity risks to culturally and/or spiritually significant species and habitats
188.8.131.52 To ensure that priority plant and animal pests are appropriately identified, managed, and/or controlled to a level where their effects are minor or, where possible, are eradicated.
(a) Effective pest plant and animal control (as measured by retention or enhancement of indigenous flora and fauna), to be undertaken in all areas of vegetation that are regionally, culturally and/or spiritually significant to Waikato-Tainui, including those habitats occupied by taonga or threatened species.
(b) Application of pest control tools will be undertaken in a manner that manages adverse effects on waterways, hauanga kai, and indigenous species.
(c) Waikato-Tainui shall be consulted on all pest management strategies developed and pest control operations planned on public land within the rohe.
(d) Appropriate monitoring occurs of the effectiveness of pest management, control and eradication operations in protecting priority ecosystems, increasing the extent and abundance of taonga species, and achieving improvements in the ecological health of terrestrial indigenous habitats, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and coastal areas.
(e) Investigations by the relevant authorities or agencies into further mechanisms and/or incentives that could be implemented to better facilitate greater support by private landowners in the implementation of pest management strategies.
(f) Supporting commercial nurseries and landscape contractors to:
i. Stock more locally eco-sourced indigenous plants;
ii. Discourage the stocking of potential pest plant species; and
iii. Better educate customers/clients regarding the risks from release of potential pest plants.
(g) Relevant authorities or agencies investigate public education and promotion initiatives, voluntary measures, and/or regulatory mechanisms to restrict the release of ornamental and exotic plant and animal species along Waikato-Tainui rivers, their tributaries, wetlands, and lakes. This may include reviewing and, if necessary, developing amendments to regulations relating to biosecurity and bio-protection for nurseries and orchards, zoos and animal parks, and tourism operators.
(h) Organisations responsible for pest management encourage people to report sightings of pest species.
Objective – control agents
15.3.4 Control agents are effective in controlling or eradicating target pest(s) with no non-target effects.
Policy – control agents
184.108.40.206 To ensure that control agents are effective in controlling or eradicating target pest(s) with no non-target effects.
(a) Relevant pest control and other agencies and research institutes use industry best practice in pest animal and plant control, while:
i. Encouraging appropriate pest control to protect indigenous vegetation;
ii. Promoting and facilitating the development of effective pest plant, animal control and eradication tools, with an emphasis on non-toxic tools, and lowered application rates of herbicides, pesticides, and other toxic control tools;
iii. Requiring that biological control agents have demonstrably no effect on non-target species or a minimal effect that is acceptable to Waikato-Tainui;
iv. Requiring that prior to being approved for use biological control agents are proven to have no chance of becoming pest species; and
v. Directing research effort towards the determination of effective methods for controlling, managing, and /or eradicating pest plant and animals species.
Objective – new organisms and Genetically Modified Organisms
15.3.5 A precautionary approach to the introduction of new organisms and GMO’s shall be adopted.
Policy – Protection of natural heritage from risk of new organisms
220.127.116.11 Applications for new organisms and GMO’s must demonstrate that there are no risks to humans, indigenous ecosystems, indigenous species, or primary production.
(a) Applicants will engage with Waikato-Tainui prior to the submission of applications to the Environmental Protection Authority and/or other regulatory agency.
(b) The relevant authorities will work with Waikato – Tainui to ensure that all cultural and spiritual beliefs are appropriately recognised, respected and thoroughly considered.
(c) All efforts must be made by the relevant authorities to ensure that the effects of current and future introduced pests, new organisms, and Genetically Modified Organisms are minimised on taonga species, areas of significant indigenous vegetation, spiritual and/or cultural significance, and on the ecosystems in which these species and areas of significance occur.