New Zealand

New Zealand’s Rivers and Seascapes

From mountain peaks to coral beds, New Zealand is home to spectacular landscapes and seascapes. 

The first humans reached New Zealand only 700 years ago, making it the last large landmass to be settled by people. The geographic isolation that led to this late settling also contributed to New Zealand’s unique biodiversity. More than 70 percent of the country’s birds, bats, land reptiles, frogs and plants are found nowhere else on Earth, including iconic flightless birds such as the kiwi, takahe and kakapo. 

In addition, New Zealand straddles sub-tropical and sub-Antarctic waters, making its marine biodiversity also particularly rich and complex, with as many as 65,000 species populating its coastal waters and deep oceans. These include whales, dolphins, fur seals and seabirds, as well as more penguin species than anywhere in the world. 

However, in the last few decades, pressing environmental challenges — nearshore habitat loss, ocean habitat degradation, deepwater mining, invasive species and freshwater depletion and pollution — are threatening New Zealand’s unique biodiversity. As a result, New Zealand has one of the highest rates of at-risk species in the world. 

Working with local communities, Iwi (Maori tribal groups), businesses, NGOs and government, The Nature Conservancy has the opportunity to address these challenges while also expanding our global conservation impact. 

Fortunately, New Zealanders have a deep commitment to working together to find solutions to their country’s environmental challenges -- environmental sustainability is critical to the long-term viability of New Zealand’s seafood, dairy, livestock and tourism industries. 

Since the launch of our New Zealand program in 2016, the Conservancy has identified three areas where we can make an immediate and lasting impact on conservation in the country. Working with partners and the government, we will focus on strengthening the management of rivers and seascapes while also exporting and scaling successful conservation solutions from New Zealand across Asia Pacific. 

Drawing on our global expertise in freshwater and marine conservation, we will work with our partners in New Zealand to:   

  • reduce pollution entering New Zealand’s rivers through recommending market-based approaches and better land management practices that can limit heavy nutrient and sediment loads
  • advance the Iwi “Mountains to Sea” approach to freshwater conservation through pilot programs in key watersheds
  • help revive Hauraki Gulf,New Zealand’s most utilized body of water, by informing mussel reef restoration and efforts to plan for sustainable marine uses
  • expand ocean conservation by quantifying and mapping ecosystem services provided by marine protected areas
  • reform fisheries so that they sustain local economic benefits for communities while reducing impacts to fish populations and fish habitat
  • export fisheries management lessons from New Zealand across Asia Pacific 

Through broad collaboration, we can increase the pace, scale and effectiveness of solutions to address New Zealand’s environmental challenges as we build robust models for sustainable practices that can be applied worldwide.


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