Working in conservation I meet some of the very best of the community – people who genuinely care about nature and about each other.
Community based conservation is my passion. I also witness some shocking and saddening attitudes, that can only be defined as egocentric. When did people stop being content with sharing our space with nature, of which we are a part? When did it become all about our rights, and those of our pets, with no thought given to the rights and needs of the wild creatures that call NZ home?
Seventy percent of species in this country are endemic – meaning they are only found here. Since people arrived, 51 species of bird have become extinct, and the majority that remain are also at risk. As our population grows, we must consider our attitude, as Coasties, to how we live alongside and connect with these treasures, our taonga.
Unfortunately the law doesn’t do enough to protect our native habitats and species either. The statutory agencies are under resourced to enforce the weak and outdated Wildlife Act (under review) or even local bylaws restricting dogs on beaches. The dog bylaw isn’t really aimed at protecting wildlife, but it makes a huge difference to our shorebirds, as we have seen recently with the Big Manly dotterels. All these threatened little birds need is a very small amount of space, for just three months a year, to raise their young and feed on the beach in peace, but for some this is too much to ask. They must access that particular section of beach, or walk their dog there – ‘that is their right’. Where is the balance? We’re taught as children to share with each other – how about we share with nature too?
Thankfully, there are many people who speak up for nature. The number of people doing this continues to increase, and there sure is a need for it.
We need to prioritise nature, to coin a term that first emerged a few years ago – be a bit more “eco-centric”, and we’ll all enjoy the benefits. What would happen if every Coastie who wants to see better protection for wildlife wrote in support of nature, celebrating the efforts made to protect it? We often only write to Council to complain – let’s flood their inbox with our support. The voices that shout the loudest are often those that get heard, and have action taken – let’s be those voices. Write to Council, our local board, and this paper and express support for conservation efforts, tree plantings, pest control and shorebird protection.