"Why limit native plants to parks, reserves and traffic islands?" asks the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Morgan Williams. "Native plants can enrich our farms and forests, improving ecological health and long term productivity."
A discussion paper released today, Weaving resilience into our working lands: future roles for native plants on private land, looks at New Zealanders' opinions on the place and roles that native plants could and should have outside of conservation areas.
We could use native trees such as lemonwood and totara rather than introduced species such as macrocarpa and pine for shelterbelts on farms. Why is it normal practice to use exotic species such as poplars and willows to prevent soil erosion and improve water quality? We know native tree and shrub species can in many cases also do these jobs, and at the same time provide habitats for native birds and insects.
Dr Williams points out that it is somewhat ironic that New Zealand invests little in researching the qualities and attributes of our unique natural capital while spending tens of millions of dollars on exotic species, such as pinus radiata, and millions on the quest for new species via genetic engineering.
The paper makes the point that native plants can play an important role in the long-term viability of our land use management practices, the improvement of our ecological resilience and indigenous biodiversity outside parks and reserves.
The report identifies a number of barriers to the expansion of native plants on private land. As a discussion paper it is intended to stimulate thinking and debate beyond the current focus on whether or not native trees on private land should be harvested for timber.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment invites comment on the paper by 31 October 2001. Further work may be undertaken as a result of these responses.