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fandb‘The irony of conservation in New Zealand is that it is about killing things.’ This is one of the sad truths we heard from Phil Bilbrough of Forest & Bird when we asked him for some enviro-spiration in the lead up to Startup Weekend Environment. We asked him to describe some of the challenges facing New Zealand’s natural environment today.

As you read, ask yourself: What could you create in a weekend that could contribute to solving one of these problems?  

“From a conservation perspective, New Zealand’s natural environment on land, and in fresh and salt water is under pressure…


  • Our wildlife and wild places suffer badly from introduced predators that predate birds, chicks, eggs, skinks, lizards, tuatara eggs, weta and glow worms. Hedgehogs, stoats, weasels, rats, mice and cats are some of the better known culprits.
    • How can we clear native forests of small furry four-legged creatures so that birds, lizards, insects and bats can live safely in a healthy ecosystem?
  • Forests are collapsing as possums strip and kill our trees. Healthy forests mitigate the impact of climate change, as they produce oxygen and act as carbon sinks.
    • How can we prevent forest collapse caused by possums? 

Fresh water

  • People destroy mangrove trees to clear waterways for swimming, boating and recreation. Mangroves filter and clean harbours, secure shorelines and shelter fish nurseries.
    • How can we encourage mangrove retention?
  • Fresh water becomes contaminated. One study found 96% of lowland rivers contained too many pathogens to be safe for swimming.
    • Contaminants come from algal blooms, which grow in response to the nitrates and phosphorous leaching from diary farms.
    • Algae can produce toxins, and clog streams and rivers.
    • Cow sewage and effluent also contribute.
      • How can we keep our waterways clean?
  • The freshwater habitat of the 4 or 5 species that make up whitebait is being degraded or ruined. There is a significant risk that whitebait stocks might collapse, and Forest & Bird is calling for a ban.
    • How can we save whitebait stocks and keep them a part of the kiwi way of life?
  • River banks are used by quad bikers and 4-wheel drive clubs. Yet river banks, particularly for braided rivers, are the nesting sites of birds. Some have become endangered.
    • How can we protect nesting sites? 

Our natural environment is degrading, and you will see the change in your lifetime. And I haven’t even begun on our oceans.

But what can I do
What can you do?

Help to reduce pests and emissions, plant natives in a band 20m either side of a river, plant native plants, retain mangroves trees. Increase public engagement with the issues, and support advocacy groups and NGOs like Forest & Bird.

  • How can we encourage New Zealanders to make a greater effort to understand, look after and work for our environment?

We take the natural environment for granted. It provides us with the clean air, fresh water and nutrition we need to survive.

Shifting our attitudes from ‘managing’ to ‘nurturing’ our environment is the essential first step in the right direction.”

Phil Billbrough is Manager Marketing & Communications at Forest & Bird, a conservation organisation protecting and restoring our wildlife and wild places. www.forestandbird.org.nz  

This blog post is part of a series we are publishing in the lead up to Startup Weekend Environment to showcase the perspectives and concerns of those involved in the environmental ecosystem in New Zealand.

Find out more about our event at http://bit.ly/swwlg-environment

Sarah Day