Weaving resilience into our working lands: future roles for native plants on private land

Report summary


A discussion paper on how New Zealand can extend and expand native plants on private land to improve the ecological sustainability of land use, increase the economic viability of primary industries, retain the biological diversity of indigenous species, and enhance the 'sense of place'. This paper explores the opportunities for, and barriers to, the expansion of native plants beyond conservation parks and reserves and into working landscapes.


Commissioner's preface

My concern is that our efforts to make necessary amends for the large loss of forest cover in New Zealand, and the rich diversity of species it supported, are not being integrated with our efforts to develop more sustainable land-based biotic industries. On the one hand we have a strong focus and commitment to the protection (the conservation) of native plants and animals, primarily on Crown-owned conservation lands. On the other hand we have the ongoing evolution of private land uses with trends in three directions; more intensive land uses, peri-urban lifestyle blocks and extensive uses such as forestry based on exotic species.


Executive summary

This discussion paper explores the opportunities for, and barriers to, the expansion of native plants on private land. Native plants have spent 80 million years adapting to Aotearoa and are a key to maintaining the ecological health of New Zealand's lands and waters, which underpin the country's social and economic well-being. Reintroducing native plants into working landscapes will also play a role in strengthening New Zealand's 'sense of place', and achieving desired biodiversity outcomes.

The paper explores the opinions of a range of individuals and organisations regarding the role that native plants can have outside of New Zealand's public reserves and parks. A number of case studies highlight the different uses, services and benefits derived from native plants. Examples of these include riparian plantings to improve water quality and soil stability, harvest for medicinal herbal products, and reserves for wildlife and eco-tourism activities.

There are still a number of barriers to the expansion of native plants on private land including:

  • a lack of markets for the range of services and products sustainably managed native plants can provide;
  • limited research and knowledge to support the ecologically sustainable management of native plants on private land; and,
  • individuals and organisations holding entrenched positions about the use of native plants rather than undertaking to explore the issues through open and informed debate.

The aim of the paper is to stimulate thinking and to encourage debate about the uses and services native plants can provide and how this valuable resource should be managed.


Findings & recommendations

The fundamental question posed by this discussion document is: What are the future roles of indigenous vegetation on private land?

The key issues and major areas of concern that need to be assessed in addressing this question are:

  • The implications of the divergent views about the values and uses of native plants
  • The language we use to discuss the topic and its impact on communication processes
  • The effects of current laws, policies and central and local government organisations
  • Economic constraints, risks and opportunities
  • Appropriate market structures and roles
  • The scope and focus of current research and knowledge accumulation
  • Overcoming soured relationships between landowners, public agencies and special interest groups
  • The implications for New Zealand's biodiversity
  • Traditional and practical values and taonga for tangata whenua
  • Recognition of the value and potential of ecosystem services
  • Our sense of place.
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