Protecting our native species

MB_15Prime Minister Weekly Column 

Rt Hon John Key_Portrait_LargeThere are many things that make New Zealand special, but without doubt one of the most remarkable is our unique environment, which draws people and praise from around the world. While we rank among the best in the world on almost all environmental indicators, where we can improve is by ensuring we give our native wildlife better protection. New Zealand is home to many unique native creatures and plants that are central to our national identity – from kiwi to kākāpō and tui – and we must do more to protect them.

That’s why last week I announced we are working towards the ambitious goal of New Zealand becoming predator free by 2050. We want to rid every part of New Zealand of rats, stoats and possums. The impact of these introduced pests cannot be overstated – they kill around 25 million of our native birds every year. They also threaten our economy and 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. The National-led Government is leading the effort, by investing an initial $28 million in a new joint venture company called Predator Free New Zealand, to drive the programme alongside the private sector.

The announcement has been welcomed by many organisations, philanthropists and conservation groups and has also attracted positive international media attention. This new company 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. This new funding is on top of the $60 to $80 million already invested in pest control by central government every year and the millions more contributed by local government and the private sector. This is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world, but I believe if we all work together as a country we can achieve it.

This is just the latest step in the National-led Government’s commitment to protecting our environment and our track record speaks for itself. This includes our decision to establish the world’s largest fully protected ocean sanctuary in the Kermadecs and our efforts to improve the quality of our fresh waterways. We are the first Government to set national water quality standards and we have increased spending on fresh water improvement ten-fold. It’s important we continue to protect our unique and awe-inspiring environment for future generations and the National-led Government is committed to doing just that. We want to show the world what is possible and reinforce New Zealand’s reputation as a worldwide leader in conservation.