From our Chair: Protecting land in perpetuity

Jenny Hughey, Chair, Environment Canterbury

Canterbury’s natural environment provides habitats for a diverse range of native plant and animal life that supports the region’s ecosystems. In turn, these ecosystems improve the quality of our air and water, break down waste, store carbon and support climate regulation.

Sadly, Canterbury is now one of the most depleted regions in terms of native flora and fauna. In farmed areas of the plains, almost all native vegetation has disappeared. According to one Department of Conservation report, less than 0.5% of the Canterbury Plains supports native vegetation.

The path for improvement

It goes without saying, then, that biodiversity is something that affects all of us, and that it’s vitally important that we explore ways to improve it where we can.

The things we do now won’t necessarily make a difference overnight. In fact, the benefits may not be seen for decades. However, thinking long term means finding and applying solutions today.

One solution is to protect and boost the biodiverse areas that Canterbury is still fortunate to have. It’s well understood that investing in the protection of existing biodiversity is smarter and cheaper than revegetation or restoration.

Considering a covenant

One way for farmers to do this is through a covenant – a legal agreement to protect a piece of land forever, even if it is sold.

Those farmers who see the long-term value in putting a covenant in place to improve biodiversity may be unsure where to begin or what to do ‘on the ground’ with things such as fencing, planting, or pest control. It’s important then to support them, and this is where Environment Canterbury can help.

In general, we may be able to offer advice and expertise, and in some cases financial support, to those wanting to improve their corner of Canterbury through environmental work.

With establishing covenants more specifically, however, we give financial support to groups and trusts that help farmers to do this.

One such group is the QEII National Trust, Ngā Kairauhī Papa. The Trust partners with farmers to provide expertise with establishing the covenant, as well as financial support with things such as surveying and fencing, and the covenant itself.

The Trust has a history of doing great work in this space and maintains that the support it provides is very often the thing that determines whether, and to what extent, a farmer will invest in biodiversity.

There are currently 362 registered QEII National Trust covenants in Canterbury, protecting 14,318 hectares.

Looking to the future

The next decade is a crucial time for conservation in Canterbury. It’s in the long-term interests of the region that we work closely with committed stakeholders, community groups and landowners to achieve meaningful outcomes in biodiversity on community spaces and private land.

If you’re thinking of covenanting land with biodiversity value or would like some support with an environmental project on your property, we are ready and willing to help where we can.