As discussed in Chapter 1, the decline of indigenous biological diversity (“indigenous biodiversity”) is one of the four most critical issues addressed in this Plan.

Indigenous Biodiversity in the Region
The Region now has only 23% of its original forest cover and 3% of its wetland habitat. The majority of the forest is found in the hill country and the ranges, with fragments scattered throughout the lower-lying and coastal areas of the Region, where typically less than 10% of original habitat remains. Remaining natural habitat is small, fragmented and under pressure from pests and disturbance. Aquatic indigenous biodiversity is in a similar state of degradation with native fish populations greatly reduced, poor habitat (loss of riparian margins in most areas and introduction of exotic fish and pest plants) and many barriers between coastal wetlands, streams and headwaters.

Much of the remaining indigenous biodiversity is in poor condition and health. Ecosystem processes are more often than not interrupted. The long-term viability of natural areas is further compromised by continued pressure from invasive species and surrounding land use. If such habitats and linkages between them are to survive they will require protection and ongoing management.

Future Approach
This Plan’s approach to indigenous biodiversity management focuses primarily on habitats, rather than on individual species or genetic diversity. The Regional Council believes that by managing habitats it will most effectively sustain regional indigenous biodiversity into the future. The Regional Council proposes to take a more active role around the coordination of indigenous biodiversity management within the Region. The Regional Council’s overall indigenous biodiversity strategy is two-tiered, involving:
  1. Halting the decline - Those habitats that are rare habitats*, threatened habitats* or at-risk habitats* (as determined in accordance with Schedule F of this Plan) and that are recognised as being an area of significant indigenous vegetation or a significant habitat of indigenous fauna will be given a high level of protection, through rules, from activities likely to cause any further loss or modification.
  2. Active Management - In addition, rare habitats*, threatened habitats* and at-risk habitats* will be proactively managed through collaboration with landowners for work such as pest control and fencing, and provision of economic incentives such as grants and rates relief.
The protection and active management of sites* on private land is crucial to maintaining indigenous biological diversity in the Region. Success in halting the indigenous biodiversity decline depends largely on the involvement and commitment of private landowners. This is a tall order for individuals, and the Regional Council recognises that the public good arising from maintaining indigenous biological diversity should not be solely at the expense of landowners. The Regional Council is therefore committed to seeking arrangements that adequately assist landowners and fairly apportion the costs of indigenous biodiversity management.