Reporting back

Protecting and restoring indigenous biodiversity

Date: 01 July 2018
Reporting Frequency: Annually
Category: Biodiversity and Biosecurity


Biodiversity projects protect and restore indigenous biodiversity.


60 projects are underway to protect and restore indigenous biodiversity.

About this goal

In 2017/18, 60 new projects were created using $1,818,753.13 of Environment Canterbury funding. This includes the Immediate Steps programme, Canterbury Biodiversity Strategy Fund, and the Biodiversity Regional Initiatives Programme.

Why does it matter?

The two major threats to biodiversity are introduced plant and animal pests and continuing land use change and intensification. Together these are the major contributors to the continuing decline in biodiversity.

We are working to bring about a step-change in effort to halt the decline and restore the natural character of degraded indigenous habitats and ecosystems.

What's being done?

Our work in ecosystems and habitats helps to protect and enhance the region’s biodiversity and is very closely linked with the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. All Water Management Zone Committees now have work programmes in place to deliver the agreed five-year outcomes. These outcomes are linked to all ten of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy Targets, including biodiversity and ecosystem health, and the natural character of braided rivers.

As well as protecting the most important remaining natural habitats, we have been focused on protecting and restoring waterway corridors and habitats through fencing lakes, rivers and streams, planting hundreds of thousands of native plants, and removing gorse, broom, willow and other weeds. In the latest financial year, 60 projects have been initiated or progressed across the region through the Immediate Steps Programme, the Canterbury Biodiversity Strategy Fund and other regional initiatives.

Biodiversity project types

Biodiversity projects can be broadly classified as one of the following:

  • Protection – maintaining and projecting existing native plants and animal communities or ecosystems
  • Enhancement – taking actions to improve the condition at a site (e.g. weed control)
  • Creation – planting is the most common type of creation project.

The most valuable and cost-effective projects are usually those that protect or enhance existing communities of native plants and animals.

However, sometimes there are other reasons, such as community engagement, for creating new areas of native vegetation or when there is simply so little biodiversity in an area (such as when threatened plant species have been lost from an area).

Some projects are undertaken for a mixture of reasons – for example protecting a wetland (protection) plus weed control (enhancement).

* Canterbury Water Management Strategy

** Immediate Steps

*** Department of Conservation, Land Information New Zealand, Landowners, Universities etc.

Waiau Toa/Clarence River black-fronted terns – safe breeding islands trial

A breakthrough in black-fronted tern habitat management, which involves a combination of safe breeding islands and predator control, has resulted in significantly higher chick survival on the Waiau Toa/Clarence River, with an additional 64 chicks per 100 nests surviving to flying age.

Black-fronted tern, a nationally endangered species, is a braided river bird which has proven difficult to manage. This is due in part to the variety of predators they face, loss of breeding habitat to woody weeds, and the fact that they nest in small scattered colonies. The total population is estimated at around 10,000 but declining.

The greatest declines in tern breeding populations have been on rivers classed as ‘low-flow’ (less than 30 cumec), including the Waiau Toa/Clarence River. Predictions are that black-fronted terns will decline by a further 90% on these low-flow rivers within the next 25 years if current trends continue.

Monitoring of hundreds of unmanaged nests in the upper Clarence catchment between 2012/13 and 2016/17 confirmed this with only about 0.06 - 0.16 chicks per nest surviving to flying age. The key predators on eggs were cats, ferrets and hedgehogs.

The Waiau Toa/Clarence River trial began in 2016 and involved deepening channels around the islands, lessening predator pressure. The islands were then scraped to remove all weeds, improving nesting habitat and removing cover for predators. Finally, the islands were mounded up higher to lessen the risk of flooding.

The number of chicks reaching flying age in the Waiau Toa/Clarence River trial has been over 5-fold higher since our trial began compared with the non-managed areas.

For the managed areas the average number of chicks per nest is 0.78 in the managed areas. This means for every 100 nests, 78 chicks survive in the managed areas compared to only 14 chicks in the unmanaged areas.


Find out more

View our Environment Reporting website.

Find out how ratepayer funding supports this work with our Rates Tool.


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