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 are supporting conservation projects to achieve greater social and environmental impacts.

May 2024 Conservation Leaders Training

Dates & venue announced. Register now & secure your place. Download the new info pack.

Download Now

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, participants can learn how to apply the Conservation Standards, and at a later stage, become qualified Conservation Coaches to share their skills with other conservation leaders across the country to 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 is working with individuals and organizations to give them additional skills and expertise to work on large-scale and complex conservation initiatives.

Quote: Abbie Reynolds

New Zealand has a lot to fight for, with so many unique species and habitats under threat. The training program is designed to support community-led projects with the right tools to achieve multiple enduring outcomes.

TNC Aotearoa New Zealand Country Director
Conservation Standards trainings provide leaders additional qualifications to enhance their conservation impact.
Conservation leaders Conservation Standards trainings provide leaders additional qualifications to enhance their conservation impact. © Roger Kingi

Conservation Leaders

Conservation Leaders is a four-year project to develop Conservation Action Planning (CAP) capability in Aotearoa New Zealand and help address the current capability gap in strategy and planning. We aim to train conservation leaders across the country in the use of Conservation Standards (CS), also known as the Conservation by Design (CbD) and Healthy Country Planning (HCP) approach, as well as support them to become qualified Conservation Coaches. Over the next couple of years, TNC aims to train around 180 New Zealand conservation leaders.

In mid-November 2022, TNC brought expert coaches, Stuart Cowell and Philippa Walsh, to Taupō, New Zealand, for a week of training in the Conservation Standards. The training was held at Wairakei Resort and was fully booked within a few days of being advertised. Registrations for the May 2024 course are now open.

This training is 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. Almost 30 participants from various organizations around the country attended the training, mostly from iwi-led community projects.

Dates and venue:

    May 1, 2, 8 and 9: Online sessions (half-day – morning).

    May 21-24: In-person session

    Venue: Beachside Nelson Conference & Events Centre, Tāhunanui, Nelson

Quote: 2022 Training Participant

Thank you very much for your time, patience, support and knowledge. I have a renewed passion in my work and a pathway to improve our outcomes and protect and enhance our targets.

The CS Approach has adapted well to the needs of working with Indigenous peoples on conservation projects.
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 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. 

“Our conservation leaders and planners have so many balls to juggle—this approach helps us to identify the critical issues and actions and to work out what will have the biggest impact, what’s the furthest we can go with minimal resources,” says Stuart Cowell, Director of Conservation Management. “It allows us to break apart the big challenges, like climate change or habitat loss, and relate the moving parts back to our values—then develop system responses and keep evaluating and testing them to keep improving."

“We can incorporate Indigenous views and voices into the model and facilitate the establishment of new standards that reflect their perspective. The Conservation Standards offer a meeting point for western and Indigenous thinking leading to more holistic outcomes."

In addition, CS provides an effective decision-making tool that can bring clarity and lift program managers out of a perpetual planning vortex: “It recognizes the complexity and enables you to make the best decisions you can with the information you have, while acknowledging the ambiguity of the challenges the sector is facing."

Having a common approach across the globe will help conservation projects learn from each other and lift standards internationally. “Most industries have standards that are shared between organizations—this is no different."

TNC is facilitating CS training in Aotearoa New Zealand to support the many community groups and organizations taking on conservation projects around the country.

“Conservation Standards' strength is in its flexibility, with feedback loops and regular monitoring and adjusting to keep improving the outcomes. It strengthens communities through its collaborative approach and focuses on social and economic outcomes as well as environmental, which is the only way we can really approach the complex challenges we face," said Stuart.

After a successful 2022 workshop, TNC will run another training in May 2024. Register now to secure your place.

Quote: 2022 Training Participant

Very experienced coaches with lots of practical experience in delivering Conservation Standards. Great resources and knowing we have support available.

Bush Heritage Australia | Testimonial (3:33)