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Coastal biodiversity in Otago

Seaweek article - 11 March 2018

What is biodiversity? Biodiversity describes the variety of all living things. It includes the range of species, their genetics, and the ecosystems where they live.

Biodiversity is essential for the functioning of ecosystems; it helps to sustain all life forms, including human. Our diverse ecology contributes to our health, our economy, and our social wellbeing. Otago’s indigenous species are also a taoka (treasure) to Kāi Tahu and form a strong part of their cultural identity.

What coastal biodiversity does Otago have?

Otago has a wonderful collection of well-known coastal species, including wetland birds (e.g. godwits, herons), sea birds (e.g. albatrosses, shags, yellow-eyed penguins/hoiho), marine mammals (seals, sea lions, Hector’s dolphins), and shellfish (e.g. pipi, cockles/tuaki, and lobsters). Lesser known species, such as invertebrates, are also important.

Biodiversity strategy development

Otago Regional Council has recently been developing a regional biodiversity strategy, outlining our role in managing biodiversity. We’ve been developing it with input from stakeholders and the Otago community.

Once we’ve made the finishing touches to the strategy document, we will make it available for comment alongside the Long Term Plan so that our strategic direction and projects align.

Proposed ORC role

There are already over 70 organisations and community groups, as well as private landowners and individuals, enhancing our biodiversity. A cornerstone of our draft biodiversity strategy is to support these groups and foster collaboration and coordination at the regional level. We propose to provide regional leadership, information and enthusiasm for biodiversity. Part of this commitment includes establishing a full-time biodiversity coordinator role.

Key strategic outcomes

The draft biodiversity strategy is centred around five key outcomes. If we achieve these, we believe we’ll achieve the overall vision of Otago being the proud home to thriving ecosystems and rich biodiversity.

  1. All indigenous species and ecosystems are maintained

We want to ensure that the health and diversity of all indigenous species and ecosystems is maintained, at very least. This will involve pest management, planning for climate change, and protecting the extent, connectivity and life-supporting capacity of habitats.

  1. Threatened indigenous species and ecosystems are enhanced

For species listed as threatened under DOC’s New Zealand Threat Classification System, such as Hector’s dolphins and sea lions, we want to actively work to increase their abundance and overall wellbeing. This will involve joining up the efforts of organisations and community groups, and making sure people know about opportunities to get involved.

  1. People are aware and proud of Otago’s biodiversity

We want people to be aware of and enthusiastic about the biodiversity in their neighbourhood, and for it to contribute to their sense of place. As a starting point, this requires people to have a good understanding about their local biodiversity. We want to help educate the community about Otago’s biodiversity in a way that enthuses and encourages participation.

  1. Kāi Tahu’s role as kaitiaki is acknowledged and supported

We want everyone to understand the values of indigenous species to Kāi Tahu and support their role as kaitiaki (guardians). A key element of this is protecting the mahika kai (traditional food) species that hold particular value to Kāi Tahu.

  1. Otago’s biodiversity adds value to the regional economy

Biodiversity can help Otago’s economy by attracting tourists and residents, making our products stand out and be seen as unique, and enhancing ecosystem services.

Coastal Strategy and review of Coast Plan

ORC is proposing to develop a Coastal Strategy to inform how we manage our coastal spaces, prior to undertaking a full review of Otago’s Coast Plan

Biodiversity Biodiversity

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