New Zealand to be Predator Free by 2050
It’s great to be here today, at the Zealandia wildlife sanctuary in the heart of our capital city.
It’s an important place for New Zealand and it tells an important story.
It shows that, as Sir Paul Callaghan said shortly before his passing, we can bring back our native wildlife to our main islands.
This was once thought to be impossible.
But Zealandia has been remarkably successful in achieving its conservation goals, and inspiring many similar efforts around the country.
New Zealanders should be incredibly proud of these efforts.
Because as we know there are many things that make New Zealand special.
Our people and our outlook, our culture, our place at the bottom of the South Pacific, our tolerance and our sense of fair play.
But without doubt one of the most remarkable and remarked upon is our unique environment.
It truly is world class.
It draws people and praise from around the world.
It provides an unrivalled way of life and it helps forge our sense of national identity.
This includes our beaches and mountains, our lakes and rivers, our marine life and our native birds.
We are proud of our kiwi and kakapo, our tui and our takahe.
They are unique to New Zealand, evolving in isolation over millions of years in a world without mammals to prey upon them.
It’s what makes them not only special but also extremely vulnerable to introduced predators.
And they must be better protected.
Because while we rank among the best in the world on almost all environmental indicators, where we can improve is on biodiversity - by giving our native wildlife better protection.
In the past we have seen some of our native species forced into extinction.
And while there was once a time when the greatest threat was deforestation and poaching, today it is those introduced predators.
Their impact cannot be overstated – rats, stoats and possums kill around 25 million of our native birds every year.
And they threaten our economy and our primary sector, with their total economic cost estimated at around $3.3 billion a year.
It is our collective responsibility to do more to address this.
As we know New Zealanders take our responsibility as stewards of our environment seriously.
There have been a great many Kiwis – including many of you here - who have played extraordinary roles in this regard.
Passionate, committed, knowledgeable, and able to inspire others to join your causes.
As a Government we spend a lot of time emphasising our economic stewardship.
But I’m equally proud of our environmental stewardship.
The two are linked.
Our strong economy has enabled the Government to systematically set about improving the way we care for all aspects of our environment.
We recognised that too many of our fresh water bodies had been slowly degrading for generations.
Our response wasn’t to try and undo a century of damage in a year or a term, imposing unbearable costs on our regional communities in the process.
Instead we committed to halting that decline and steadily and surely improving those waterways.
We are the first Government to set national water quality standards and we have increased spending on fresh water improvement ten-fold.
And we are working with communities and scientists to make some very significant improvements in places like the Rotorua lakes, Lake Taupo and Lake Brunner.
We are also taking huge steps to better protect our oceans.
Like our forests and fresh waterways, New Zealanders place great value on our coasts and oceans.
They are an important part of our culture, economy and environment and we are committed to managing them sustainably.
To do that we have introduced robust laws for ensuring economic activity in the EEZ meets world’s best practice.
In 2008 our territorial waters had 33 marine reserves covering 12,800 square kilometres.
Today we have 44 such reserves covering more than 17,000.
We are also expanding and diversifying the nature of the protection we offer through the creation of recreational fishing parks.
And we have recognised that some environments are so special and so untouched they should remain that way forever.
That is why we are creating the world’s largest fully protected ocean sanctuary.
The Kermadec/Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary will cover an area twice the size of New Zealand’s total landmass and one of the most biologically and geologically diverse in the world.
It is a globally significant conservation effort which New Zealanders should be incredibly proud of.
Because it belongs to all of us and to all of the generations that follow us.
It is a real demonstration of New Zealanders’ commitment to the stewardship of our environment.
In New Zealand that stewardship is not just the preserve of Governments.
There are hundreds of important conservation projects around the country, led by communities, NGOs and the private sector.
All up, more than 7000 hectares of the New Zealand mainland as well as more than 150 offshore islands are now completely free of predators.
On top of this, a further 1 million hectares of conservation land are under sustained predator control.
DOC, local councils and community conservation groups do an amazing job protecting what we have and pushing back against rats, stoats and possums.
But we want to go much further.
We want every part of our parks, forests and urban green spaces to be teeming with life.
We want our native wildlife to be able to flourish and for New Zealand to show the world what sort of conservation gains are possible when there is the will and the way to make it happen.
That’s why I am today announcing we have adopted the goal of a Predator Free New Zealand.
By 2050 every single part of New Zealand will be completely free of rats, stoats and possums.
This is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world, but we believe if we all work together as a country we can achieve it.
It will require an extraordinary effort.
It will take the reach and leadership of the Government, the funding of philanthropists and the energy of local communities and iwi.
And it will require significant advances in the technical know-how of our scientists.
We will harness all of those to deliver on our pledge.
It won’t be easy – there’s a reason Sir Paul described it as “New Zealand’s Apollo project” – but it can be done.
So the Crown will initially invest $28 million over four years to establish a new joint venture company called Predator Free New Zealand Ltd to drive the programme, alongside the private sector.
It will be up and running by early next year and be responsible for identifying large, high value predator control projects and attracting co-investors to boost their scale and success.
The Government will look to provide funding for suppression and eradication projects on a one for two basis.
That is for every $2 committed by local councils and the private sector, the Government will contribute another dollar.
We know that the funding is there.
Already councils spend around $10 million per year on pest control, along with millions from the philanthropic sector – organisations like the NEXT Foundation - and the $60 to $80 million every year from the Government.
We must acknowledge from the outset that we don’t yet have all the technology needed to meet our goal.
Therefore science has a critical role to play and New Zealand’s top researchers in the natural sciences will be needed.
The Biological Heritage National Science Challenge is set up to look for ways to protect and manage our biodiversity and biosecurity, with the Government providing almost $26 million over five years.
This challenge will be a key partner in Predator Free New Zealand.
This project is hugely ambitious and long-term.
So we have broken it down into stages.
Initially we will look to:
- Increase the amount of New Zealand covered by predator control;
- Establish regional partnerships and support community led initiatives;
- Improve the tools we have to do the job;
- Establish more areas of complete elimination as a base to build from; and
- Invest in long term scientific breakthroughs to harness the enterprise and ingenuity of our science and business communities.
And by 2025 the Predator Free New Zealand project will see:
- All introduced predators eradicated from all our offshore island nature reserves;
- 1 million more hectares of mainland New Zealand where predators are suppressed;
- We will have shown that complete predator eradication can be achieved in areas of at least 20,000 hectares on the New Zealand mainland;
- And we will have developed a breakthrough science solution capable of removing at least one small mammal predator from the mainland entirely.
All of this will help with our ultimate goals – to make New Zealand predator free by 2050.
To protect our unique and awe-inspiring environment for future generations.
And to show the world what is possible and reinforce New Zealand’s reputation as a worldwide leader in conservation.
We know it is ambitious but we are ambitious for New Zealand.
And we know we can do it because we have shown time and again what can be achieved when New Zealanders come together with the ambition, willpower and the wherewithal to make things happen.