… gradually we are incorporating matauranga Maori, centuries worth of knowledge and practices into conservation and resource management. Andrea Vance, Dominion Post 18 October 2021

Less than the Truth on our biodiversity

By Roger Childs

Some readers are sure to be following Vance’s Stuff series THIS IS HOW IT ENDS about the New Zealand biodiversity crisis. She is a very experienced journalist and has been a senior reporter for Stuff, but no doubt because the Government underpins Ms Boucher’s media organisation with regular big handouts, she is playing fast and loose with the truth and toeing the politically correct line

The quote above is one example of some of the nonsense she is including in her articles. Whose matauranga knowledge is she referring to — Nga Puhi’s, Ngati Porou’s, Ngti Toa’s, Ngai Tahu’s or the wisdom from scores of other tribes?  (More on this in a later article.)

Wipe out

However, the big question is did the native groups in pre-colonial times practice conservation? 

No they didn’t and in fact they ravaged the environment as if there was no tomorrow. Leading environmentalist the late Bill Benfield summed it up:  “If it was there it was destroyed.”  

38 bird species were wiped out including the moa, Haast’s Eagle, adzebil and a giant goose. The slaughter of the moa went far beyond the hunters’ food needs. Leading moa expert Quinn Berentson describes it as serial overkill and speaks of huge meat works and ovens at the mouths of South Island rivers like the Waitaki, Rangitata and Rakaia. To help with the hunting, huge area of lowland forest were destroyed by burning. Evidence of this has come recently from core samples drilled through the ice in Antarctica.

So Maori claims today to be kaitiaki – guardians of the environmentrings very hollow as they have no historical justification.

Failing to acknowledge 1080 in Kea deaths

Vance’s article on Poisoning a taonga made no reference to the copious evidence that the green pellets have caused havoc amongst the inquisitive and acquisitive Kea in the South Island. I wrote the following letter to the editor about the issue, but it was not published. Some of this information featured in an earlier Waikanae Watch article and Carol Sawyer from Wanaka was a key source.

. In her “Poisoning a precious taonga” article she avoids stating that 1080 poison drops has killed many. In 2015 the Department of Conservation (DOC) announced in The Press that 13% of Kea they had monitored during a series of 1080 drops, had died. Then in March 2020 there was more bad news. DOC reported that after a 1080 drop in the Matukituki Valley 6 out of 12 radio-tagged Kea had died. That probably means that 50% of ALL Kea in the area are likely to have been killed too. There is plenty of other evidence of the lethal impact on those appealing, inquisitive and amazingly intelligent birds from locals in the Nelson Lakes and Mt Aspiring National Parks. On the Kepler Track near the upper Forest Burn bivouac, a construction worker who was cutting the track about 30 years ago spoke of many Kea being around. He remarked that you couldn’t leave anything outside!

But sadly there are no Kea there anymore.

Conservation groups

In her On life support article there is reference to You’ve got wonderful iwi and hapu in communities doing work on the ground. Hey Andrea, there are thousands of non-Maori up and down the country who belong to restoration groups and spend plenty of time planting native species and maintaining conservation areas.

In the Kapiti area from North Otaki Beach to Paekakariki there are more than 20 such groups. One of the most impressive areas is along both banks of the Waikanae River where tens of thousands of trees, shrubs and flaxes have been planted.

There is plenty of work being done on the ground by a wide range of New Zealanders.

It is unfortunate that on such an important topic as the country’s biodiversity being under pressure the writer cannot be honest, accurate and comprehensive.