Two people sit at the edge of a wide body of water with mountains in the distance, enjoying the scenic views in Nelson, South Island.
OUt in nature Enjoying the scenic views in Nelson, South Island. © Te Pania, Unsplash

Stories in New Zealand

Building Capacity and Capability Across the Conservation Sector

Through Conservation Leaders, we supported conservation projects to achieve greater social and environmental impacts.

June 2024 Update

The Conservation Leaders programme has now closed. Thank you to everyone for your interest.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is building the capacity and capability of Aotearoa New Zealand’s conservation and natural resource management leaders to build a future where both people and nature thrive. Through our Conservation Leaders training programme, run between 2021 and 2024, participants learned how to apply the Conservation Standards and drive greater social and environmental impacts at scale.


Around the world, the conservation community is tackling large, complex and urgent environmental challenges with high stakes. In many places, people running the world’s most critical conservation and sustainable development projects rely on their own skills and resources. However, without more rigorous measurement of their effectiveness, we cannot show that we are achieving the results we seek.

Aotearoa New Zealand has a proud history of conservation achievements, including bringing several species back from the brink of extinction. The country is full of passionate individuals and dedicated community groups keen to make a difference, often within their immediate natural environment. To accelerate this impact, TNC set out to give individuals and organizations additional skills and expertise to work on large-scale and complex conservation initiatives.

A large group of people stand together for a group photo in a grassy field with a forest behind them.
Conservation leaders Conservation Standards trainings provide leaders additional qualifications to enhance their conservation impact. © Roger Kingi

Conservation Leaders

The Conservation Leaders Programme was initiated to develop Conservation Action Planning (CAP) capability in Aotearoa New Zealand to address the capability gap in strategy and planning.

We trained nearly 100 conservation leaders across the country, mostly from iwi-led and community projects, in the use of Conservation Standards (CS), also known as the Conservation by Design (CbD) and Healthy Country Planning (HCP) approach. The training was designed to equip participants from conservation groups and leaders with the tools to deliver landscape-scale projects that achieve impacts at a level that benefits whole ecosystems and empowers others to lead similar projects.

TNC-supported and led training courses were held in May and November 2022, and May 2024, with expert coaches, Stuart Cowell and Philippa Walsh.

Participant Stories

Otago Regional Council

The Otago Regional Council says Conservation Standards have proved a valuable aid in developing Catchment Action Plans (CAPs) to manage natural resources within broad catchments.

Kawatiri Nature Environment & Communities Trust

Learning about how to plan restoration projects through Conservation by Design has given the Kawatiri Nature Environment & Communities Trust confidence they are on the right path.

Kotahitanga mō te Taiao Alliance

The Kotahitanga mō te Taiao Alliance has already put this training into practice for their Restoration by Design process, enabling them to develop their recent implementation plan.

A person stands ankle-deep in water and lifts a fishing trap out of the water while the sun sets behind them.
Netting eels The CS approach has adapted well to the needs of working with Indigenous peoples on conservation projects. © Michael Yamashita

Introductory Webinar

Programme manager Hao Jin Tan hosted an introductory webinar in December 2023 attended by 64 participants. This video contains the key presentations from the session.

Key Webinar Session (55:15) Conservation Standards webinar highlights December 2023

Download the presentations:


The Conservation Standards Approach

The CS approach has been widely used around the world and has adapted well to the needs of working with Indigenous peoples on conservation projects.

We will continue to promote and apply the framework through the projects we are involved with and support—with the aim of adding more tools to the kete of the conservation community.

A community of practice has been set up for New Zealand practitioners where you can connect with other practitioners, share experiences, get support and learn new things. To join, visit CCNet Australia & Aotearoa New Zealand.