International Year of Biodiversity

24 February 2010

The United Nations has declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity with the aim of raising awareness of the value of biodiversity and what we can do to safeguard it.

Biodiversity refers to the variety of plants, animals, and ecosystems in an area. Wellington's natural environment is unique – from the penguins and pingao around the rugged South Coast to the flax-covered coastal escarpments and the dolphins in the harbour. From the tall miro and matai in our remnant forests to the kokopu in our streams and the tui and kaka flying through the central city, our environment is at the heart of what many Wellingtonians say they love about their city.

Wellington City Council's vision is for Wellington to be a city that protects and restores biodiversity and proudly showcases its natural areas.

The Council's Environment Portfolio Leader, Councillor Celia Wade-Brown, says "Everyone has an impact on biodiversity, positive or negative, and can play a part in its conservation. The healthy wild environment, interwoven with our cosmopolitan capital attracts residents and visitors alike."

"Globally, the rate of extinction of species is accelerating.  It's essential for us to become more aware and more responsible. The planting being done by volunteers all around the city is a great example. Transport, pollution and consumption choices all affect our local and global environment too." 

The Council has a Biodiversity Action Plan that coordinates biodiversity activities, and identifies local priorities and actions to protect and restore biodiversity. This plan focuses on indigenous biodiversity. It aims to protect and enhance biodiversity through a range of projects and services.

A variety of Council projects directly benefit biodiversity. These include providing environmental grants and support to environmental community groups, pest management, conservation of threatened plants and revegetation projects using eco-sourced plants.

The Council runs a city-wide revegetation programme with more than 60,000 eco-sourced plants going into the ground each year.  Under the community greening programme, we also supply up to 40,000 eco-sourced plants to environmental community groups and to people planting on public land beside their houses, Cr Wade-Brown says. Almost 50 environmental groups are supported around the city, from Friends of Tawa Bush Reserves in the north and Island Bay Coast Care in the south, to the Miramar Track Project in the east and the Makaracarpas (Makara Estuary) in the west.

"Pest plant species in 23 key native ecosystems, such as Otari-Wilton's Bush and Trelissick Park, are controlled and we also have citywide programmes for some species of weeds."

The Council works with Greater Wellington Regional Council to control possums on more than 2000 hectares and there are also goat and pig control programmes as required and a mustelid (stouts, ferrets, weasels) programme supported by volunteers who bait and check the traps.

Education programmes are also supported through Wellington Zoo, Zealandia - Karori Sanctuary, the Botanic Garden, Otari-Wilton's Bush and revegetation work with schools.

Monitoring programmes are in place to look at the changes in vegetation distribution and to monitor the condition of selected ecosystems. The Council also does regular bird counts to look at the distribution and abundance of native birds around the city, which has increased since counts began.

To mark the International Year of Biodiversity the Council is supporting a series of community events throughout 2010, says Cr Wade-Brown.

"Restoration Day will be held on International Day of Biodiversity on Saturday 22 May. It will have a strong focus on biodiversity and how lessons learnt from the past will ensure better biodiversity conservation in the future. This year we will be involving schools by asking them to do posters on their restoration projects and how they are helping indigenous biodiversity."

Other events to look out for include Seaweek; Berhampore Nursery Open Day on 15 May where there will be a 'Biodiversity in the Backyard' theme; Arbor Day on 4 June; Conservation Week, including Otari Open Day in mid-September; and Spring Festival at the end of September/early October.

"I encourage people to go along and support these events and find out more about biodiversity and how Wellington households, schools and businesses can support it," says Cr Wade-Brown.