OPINION: James Shaw Thriving Nature
Have you ever encountered a cheeky kea up close in the mountains? Heard a dawn chorus of bellbirds? Or seen an albatross soar overhead out at sea? These are experiences of our natural wilderness that took my breath away and helped me to realise that we live in a truly beautiful country.
These birds are a part of our toanga — natural treasures that, in the case of the kiwi, have literally come to define us. They’re plucky, smart, and totally unique. Nearly half our birds are found nowhere else on the planet. And millions of tourists come here every year to see them and our pristine wild places; mainly because we still have them.
But our native birds and wildlife are in serious trouble.
One third of our birds are facing extinction. Many, like the kea and albatross, could even disappear within our lifetimes! They face a plague of rats, stoats, possums, and feral cats, and the ongoing destruction of their natural habitat whether it be from plastic in the oceans or new coal mines on the West Coast.
If we want to save our native birds and see them thrive in our lifetimes, we’ll need to invest a great deal more money into conservation. That’s why this week I announced our Thriving Nature plan up in the beautiful Waitakare Ranges.
At its heart is a plan to double the number of rangers — working on the frontlines of defending nature — and double the pest control that they do. If we’re successful this election, we’ll have 720 more rangers working to protect our kea, our albatross, and thousands of other threatened species. (There are 3,000 in total threatened with extinction.)
Our plan has been described as “the single biggest new investment in the work of the Department of Conservation (DOC) since it was established in 1987”.
Since taking office, National has put DOC through the wringer. DOC has been restructured, downsized, and had hundreds of millions of dollars cut from its baseline funding in real terms, forcing DOC to close field offices and to shed around 200 frontline rangers. Even worse, DOC’s mission to be the primary defender of nature has been diluted by National’s drive to open up conservation land for business.
Nature’s primary defenders have effectively been silenced by National.
As a result, DOC is unable to achieve the things that we most want from them —to properly protect nature and see it thrive.
We’re going to fix that.
Under a Government with a Green heart, New Zealand’s natural treasures — our wildlife, forests, rivers and oceans — will finally be in safe hands.
James Shaw is Co-Leader of The Green Party