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WWF-New Zealand: News

  • Nationwide search for conservation innovators kicks off

    Conservation Innovation Awards 2017 logo<br />© Weaver CreativeThe search is on for big, bold, game-changing ideas and new solutions to New Zealand's greatest environmental challenges, such as freshwater quality, climate change, species decline and invasive pests.
    Open today, WWF-New Zealand's 2017 Conservation Innovation Awards will reward innovative environmental game-changers. To submit your idea, visit Designed to help innovators fast-track their ideas to development, the Awards cover three categories – Engaging young people and communities, Predator Free New Zealand 2050, and an Open Category. A prize package of $25,000 will be awarded to each category winner. Entries close on 15 October.
    "The Conservation Innovation Awards celebrate Kiwi innovators whose bright ideas will make a real difference in the fight to protect our precious ecosystems and native species," said Livia Esterhazy, WWF-New Zealand's Chief Executive Officer. "We are looking for new ideas that have practical application and that are game changers for the environment.
    "We encourage Kiwi innovators from all walks of life – from research labs to garden sheds and everywhere in-between – to apply their creativity and come up with ideas, new technologies or innovative projects that will aid the work of frontline conservation throughout the country and tackle conservation obstacles.
    "Ingenuity and innovation are characteristics that Kiwis are renowned for and the Conservation Innovation Awards has supported a number of innovative environmental solutions, including a commercial wasp bait, a freshwater testing system and an app to help kauri conservation."
    The 2017 Awards are supported by The Tindall Foundation, Department of Conservation, Callaghan Innovation, Predator Free 2050 Ltd and New Zealand's Biological Heritage National Science Challenge.
    The Awards are driven by an innovative crowd sourcing application process – where inventors, conservationists and inquiring minds can come together to propose and refine ideas in real time.
    "The power of the crowd is gaining momentum and for the Conservation Innovation Awards this collective approach means that ideas for furthering conservation work, which will ultimately benefit all New Zealanders, can be fine-tuned to their full potential," Ms Esterhazy said.
    Entrants need to submit their ideas as soon as they can at
    The 2016 Awards attracted a record 41 entries from across the country. Now in its fourth year, the winners will be announced at a ceremony in Wellington on 22 November.
    For information about the Awards, past winners and how to enter, visit

  • Great Kererū Count takes to the skies

    Kererū are a fraction of their former abundance, and play an important role in native forest ecosystems.<br />© Rosalind Cole, Department of Conservation, Crown Copyright The Great Kererū Count (GKC) takes flight today and New Zealanders across the county are asked to keep their eyes on the skies to help build up a comprehensive picture of where our native pigeon is – and isn't – found. Join the Count at
    The 2017 Count will run from Friday 22 September to Sunday 1 October. 
    WWF-New Zealand's Chief Executive Officer, Livia Esterhazy said given the ecological importance of kererū, Great Kererū Count data was vital not just for protecting this species, but for ensuring the health of our forest ecosystems for future generations.
    "Large flocks of more than 100 kererū were once a common sight in skies over New Zealand – our ambition is to see them prolific again," Ms Esterhazy said.
    "We're encouraging New Zealanders to take part by counting the kererū in backyards, schools, parks or reserves. The information collected from this nation-wide project will be used to better protect kererū and to help save our native forests." 
    The humble kererū is one of New Zealand's most valuable assets when it comes to our native forests. Kererū are known as the 'gardeners of the skies' as they play a crucial role in dispersing seeds of native canopy trees such as tawa, taraire and matai. No other bird can fulfil this function, making the species essential for forest regeneration.
    Ms Esterhazy said kererū were distinctive looking birds. "Their large size and bright white singlets makes them easy to spot perched in treetops or on power lines," she said.
    As part of GKC 2017, Landcare Research is hosting a national Kererū Photographic Competition from 22 September – 22 October. Great prizes include a kererū shelf from Ian Blackwell, Topflite seed bells, a nectar feeder and predator control tools. Entries are welcome via the Kereru Discovery Facebook page, and on Instagram and Twitter (#GKCPhotoComp).
    This year, Wellington City Council has kindly donated 500 locally-sourced native plants, which are being given to residents to plant and attract kererū. The last plant giveaway is 24 September.

    Dr Stephen Hartley, Senior Lecturer in Ecology from Victoria University of Wellington, explains the scientific significance of the GKC project: "In the first few years we're building up a detailed picture of how kererū are distributed across the country, what they are feeding on, and especially the extent to which they are found in towns and cities".
    "Over time, we hope to discover whether numbers are increasing or decreasing and whether populations are faring better or worse in some parts of the country compared to others," Dr Hartley said.
    "This year we are especially keen for people to seek out new locations, as well as returning to old haunts to make timed observations of between five and 30 minutes. Even if you don't see a kererū in this time – that's still useful information and important to submit."
    To count kererū, people can use a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone – whatever works best for the individual.
    This year, there are three options to make kererū observations via or with the iNaturalist App available on iTunes and Google Play.
    An online map showing all sightings and a ticker with the number of birds reported, will be updated automatically as the Count progresses.
    The GKC is a partnership between WWF-New Zealand, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington City Council, and NatureWatch NZ and supported by regional councils, environmental groups and bird watchers throughout New Zealand.

  • Big Pre-election Climate Change Policy Debate

    Climate Debate<br />© Shutterstock / OliverSved / WWFThe environment has been a hot topic during the 2017 election campaign but one of the biggest issues, climate change, has received relatively little air time to date. That's why WWF-New Zealand is hosting a Climate Debate on 19 September 2017 in Auckland, in partnership with Oxfam New Zealand and Fossil Free University of Auckland.
    Political candidates from five key parties have confirmed that they are attending, including James Shaw, leader of the Green Party and Megan Woods, Labour's Climate Change spokesperson.
    The Climate Debate will be held from 7:00-8:30 pm on Tuesday 19 September 2017, in the AMRF Auditorium (Lecture Theatre 1) in the University of Auckland Grafton Campus, 85 Park Rd, Grafton.
    The Debate will follow a question and answer format, with business journalist Rod Oram asking candidates the climate questions that matter and then inviting questions from the floor.
    WWF-New Zealand will also stream the Debate live online via Facebook and Twitter.
    For more details about the Debate, visit

    The full list of candidates participating in the Debate will be announced by 15 September.

  • Taking Wildlife Tracking to Next Level with WWF Conservation Innovation Winner DroneCounts

    Philip Solaris with Drone Counts prototype<br />© Drone CountsWWF-New Zealand Conservation Innovation Awards winner DroneCounts is taking wildlife tracking to the next level in the urgent fight to stem the tragic loss of species, both locally and globally.

    Thought to be a world first, DroneCounts can GPS track and map the location of tagged endangered species, providing time-synchronised data about the target species' behaviour to assist conservation management. The system can also be used to track wildlife poachers.

    DroneCounts took flight after winning $25,000 through the 2016 Conservation Innovation Awards, which enabled the team to further refine the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) design and build a flexible information gathering system that is more efficient, cheaper and saves time and energy.

    "The Conservation Innovation Awards celebrate Kiwi innovators whose bright ideas, like DroneCounts, look set to make a real difference in the fight to protect our precious ecosystems and native species," said Livia Esterhazy, WWF-New Zealand's Chief Executive Officer. "We welcome big, bold, game-changing ideas."

    Open from 25 September to 15 October, the 2017 Conservation Innovation Awards ​will ​reward innovative environmental game-changers. To submit an idea, visit A prize package of $25,000 will be awarded to each of the three winners. The 2017 Awards are supported by The Tindall Foundation, Department of Conservation, Callaghan Innovation, Predator Free 2050 and New Zealand's Biological Heritage National Science Challenge.

    "Business as usual is no longer an option," Ms Esterhazy said. "Our native species extinction rates in New Zealand are among the highest in the world. To reverse these trends, conservation innovation is imperative. We must seek transformational change and rapidly create new solutions. Together, we can make a difference and deliver world-leading conservation innovation!"

    The men behind the DroneCounts invention are Auckland-based Philip Solaris (robotic aviation company X-craft) and John Sumich (Ark in the Park and Habitat Te Henga).

    This innovative idea was sparked when they realised traditional approaches to wildlife monitoring were severely limited by old-fashioned technology, vegetation, distance, terrain, weather and operator safety.

    Mr Solaris said the DroneCounts aircraft operated as an 'on-call' data collector, providing crucial data in the most efficient way without the need of human intervention.

    The capabilities, opportunities and applications of this new system are seemingly limitless – it can operate on land, in air or water, at night, in extreme temperatures and weather conditions. The system can be customised to track wildlife, livestock or even emergency services personnel conducting search and rescue missions after disaster events.

    Before commercialisation, the DroneCounts team wants to shrink the size of the unit with custom-built componentry, so the end product is the most advanced system possible. To get this incredible tool into production and out in the environment making a difference, X-craft is actively seeking investors.

    Mr Solaris said the Conservation Innovation Award had definitely made a difference. "The Award has opened doors, where previously people were sceptical," he said. "Those doors can be difficult to open sometimes and the Award has broken down some barriers and opened minds to what is achievable."

    For information about the Awards, past winners and how to enter, visit

  • New Zealanders call for better protection for NZ sea lions

    84% of Kiwis agree that the number of NZ sea lions/rāpoka being accidentally killed by fishing should be further reduced<br />© Weaver Creative/ WWF-New ZealandNew Colmar Brunton polling released today shows that an overwhelming number of New Zealanders want the government to do more to protect endangered NZ sea lions from being accidentally caught and killed in fishing nets.

    The research, commissioned by WWF-New Zealand, has found 84% of Kiwis agree that the number of NZ sea lions/rāpoka being accidentally killed by fishing should be further reduced.

    "These are the world's rarest sea lions and they live right here in New Zealand," said WWF-New Zealand campaigner David Tong. "NZ sea lions are listed as 'nationally critical', and without further action this species is at risk of extinction.

    "Although New Zealand sea lions are also affected by disease and food shortages, accidental killing in fishing nets is the biggest human threat these precious animals face," Mr Tong said. "It is also the problem that we are most able to solve."

    NZ sea lions once lived all around the New Zealand coastline. Now they live mostly on New Zealand's sub-Antarctic islands. Their population has halved over the last 15 years.

    "This poll shows that New Zealanders agree that the government should do more to protect this precious species. There needs to be a precautionary approach that reduces the number of NZ sea lions that fishing nets accidentally kill each year, along with investment in research to better understand the impact of fishing."

    On 8 August, the New Zealand government released a new draft squid fishing plan for consultation. The 'Squid 6T Operational Plan' regulates trawling for squid around the Auckland Islands, home to the most important breeding colony of NZ sea lions.

    "WWF-New Zealand urges Kiwis to speak out for sea lions and make a submission on the squid fishing plan," Mr Tong said. "Already, hundreds of people all over the country have made submissions on this plan, calling on the Ministry for Primary Industries to take a precautionary approach to fishing in NZ sea lions' habitat to better protect this species. Together, it's possible to save our sea lions."

    To make your submission on the Squid 6T Operational Plan click here.

  • WWF-New Zealand Conservation Innovation winner RiverWatch making a splash

    Grant Muir with RiverWatch Water Sensor<br />© Louisa McKerrow/ WWF New-ZealandA game-changer solution to New Zealand's freshwater emergency, WWF-New Zealand Conservation Innovation Awards winner the RiverWatch Water Sensor is heading towards commercial market production.

    As a 2016 Conservation Innovation Awards winner, $25,000 core funding was provided to develop the RiverWatch prototype which remotely monitors and records freshwater quality, where it can be used by hundreds of community groups to collect much-needed data from rivers, lakes and streams. This simple floating device is equipped with unique probes which monitor data, including pH level, temperature, conductivity, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen.

    Open from 25 September to 15 October, the 2017 Conservation Innovation Awards will seek out and reward innovative game-changers for conservation. To find out how to submit an idea visit A prize package of $25,000 will be awarded to each of the three winners. The 2017 Awards are supported by The Tindall Foundation, Department of Conservation, Callaghan Innovation, Predator Free 2050 and New Zealand's Biological Heritage National Science Challenge.

    "The Conservation Innovation Awards help bring amazing ideas to life – such as the RiverWatch Water Sensor which provides a solution to New Zealand's worsening river and freshwater quality, and could have a major impact on the restoration of our freshwater for generations to come," said Livia Esterhazy, WWF-New Zealand's Chief Executive Officer.

    "From multiple scientific reports, we know that our freshwater is being polluted and our rivers and lakes are in trouble," Ms Esterhazy said. "This is a national crisis and requires a national level response, including accurate and timely water monitoring. Rivers are the lifeblood of our country and communities deserve and need to know the condition of their waterways. Clean, safe waterways are essential for the health of people, wildlife and economy."

    The RiverWatch Water Sensor has been developed by Water Action Initiative New Zealand (WAI NZ) in collaboration with students from Victoria University of Wellington's School of Engineering and Computer Science. Behind the initiative is South Wairarapa farmer Grant Muir and his son James Muir.

    "Water quality is really important to many New Zealanders," Grant Muir said. "Recent surveys show that 93% of Kiwis believe there is a freshwater crisis in New Zealand and something must be done about it.

    "This Water Sensor will give community members the opportunity to take action and monitor the water quality in their local rivers, giving real time data on the health of the waterways." Mr Muir said the Water Sensor logged data 24/7, and was easy to operate, portable and inexpensive. Any incident reports on waterways can be automated by the website and emailed to the appropriate authorities for action.

    RiverWatch has already gained support from water scientists, regional and local councils, citizen scientists, community groups, iwi organisations, farmers and fishermen – within New Zealand and internationally. "We already have orders waiting and there is interest from overseas groups involved in water monitoring," Mr Muir said.

    "There is significant interest in modifying the sensor to work in salt water, especially from inshore fisheries that are in crisis due to increased sedimentation. We are working with the Institute of Environmental Research Ltd and other data collection agencies to develop a third version which tests for water born E. coli pathogens and water soluble nitrates."

    Mr Muir said the Water Sensor was designed for New Zealand conditions. "It is solar-powered and able to be remotely monitored, and is suited for temporary or permanent site applications," he said. "Income from the sale of RiverWatch products will go directly back to conservation innovation, research and development for future generations of New Zealanders."

    WAI NZ is now seeking funding to cover costs to get version three of the sensor to commercial market production through the crowd funding platform PledgeMe and other sources.

    "Winning the Conservation Innovation Award helped us finalise the prototype, raise the RiverWatch profile, engage people in Aotearoa's water quality issue and open doors to further funding," Mr Muir said. "Without WWF and these Awards, we would not be in this exciting space. I encourage people who have an idea that will make a difference across anything environmental to put their ideas forward and enter the Conservation Innovation Awards."

    For information about the Awards, past winners and how to enter, visit

    You can support the development of the RiverWatch Water Tester at

  • The EPA has sold the health of the marine environment

    A Māui dolphin swimming off the coast of Port Waikato.<br />© Taylor ShrimptonWWF-New Zealand is really disappointed by today's Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) decision to approve seabed mining in the habitat of New Zealand's critically endangered Māui dolphins.
    "By approving Trans-Tasman Resources' application to mine iron sand off southern Taranaki, the EPA has allowed a new threat to New Zealand's Māui dolphins, the world's smallest and rarest marine dolphins," said WWF-New Zealand campaigner David Tong.
    The EPA today approved Trans-Tasman Resources' application to dig up 50 million tonnes of seabed in the Southern Taranaki Bight each year for the next 35 years. This would produce five million tonnes of iron ore for direct export each year.
    "The Southern Taranaki Bight is a precious and wondrous marine ecosystem," Mr Tong said. "As well as Māui dolphins, over 14 kinds of whale live there, including a newly discovered population of critically endangered blue whales. Scientists have highlighted significant environmental impacts from seabed mining that could threaten these species.
    "Less than 1% of New Zealand's ocean is fully protected from exploitation like fishing, seabed mining, and oil exploration. Our oceans and the beautiful animals that live in them need more protection, not less."

    For more information about today's decision - click here

  • New draft squid fishing plan recognises uncertainties in science of fishing impact on New Zealand sea lions

    New Zealand sea lion<br />© Sarah MichaelEnvironmental organisation WWF-New Zealand, today cautiously welcomed the Ministry for Primary Industries' new draft squid fishing plan and called for precautionary action to save the New Zealand sea lion. The 'Squid 6T Operational Plan', released today for consultation regulates trawling for squid around the Auckland Islands, home to the most important breeding colony of this endangered species.
    In this plan, the Ministry has for the first time acknowledged uncertainties in the science about the impact that fishing has on the New Zealand sea lion. The plan, if adopted, will cover the two fishing years from October 2017 to September 2019.
    "New Zealand sea lions are the rarest sea lion in the world," said WWF-New Zealand campaigner David Tong. "They are a national treasure – but for too long the government has made unscientific assumptions in deciding how much fishing is allowed in their habitat. The recognition of uncertainty over the impact of fishing in this draft plan is a welcome change."
    The squid trawl fishery uses Sea Lion Exclusion Devices (SLEDs), but it remains unknown how many sea lions come into contact with fishing nets, and how well SLEDs work.
    "New Zealand sea lions are affected by disease and food shortages, but accidental killing in fishing nets is known to be the biggest human threat to Aotearoa's endangered sea lions," Mr Tong said. "It is also the problem that we are most able to solve.
    "What is now needed is a precautionary approach that reduces the number of sea lions allowed to be accidentally killed each year and investment in research to better understand the impact of fishing.
    "WWF urges New Zealanders to speak out for sea lions and make submissions calling on the Ministry for Primary Industries to get this critical research done and take a precautionary approach to fishing in NZ sea lions' habitat in the meantime."

  • Conservation and development organisations welcome PCE call for a new climate law

    Zero Carbon Act website launch 2017<br />© David Tong/ WWF-New Zealand

    WWF-New Zealand, Forest & Bird and Oxfam New Zealand welcome the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's (PCE) report, 'Stepping Stones to Paris and Beyond', released today. The PCE report identifies an historic opportunity for the next New Zealand Parliament to enshrine climate change targets into law and create a high-powered, non-partisan, expert climate commission.
    "Creating greater transparency and predictability on climate change policy would benefit all of us," said WWF-New Zealand campaigner David Tong. "Climate change is bigger than politics – it matters to New Zealanders from all walks of life.
    "It's about time we rose above party politics and got on with the job of unlocking the pathway to New Zealand's clean energy future and cutting our greenhouse gas emissions. Implementing the Commissioner's recommendations would be a big step in the right direction.
    "A clean energy future for New Zealand is 100% possible. As the Vivid Economics report released in March by the cross-party working group GlobeNZ shows, it's 100% possible to get New Zealand's net emissions to zero by 2050. But we need a plan to get there that goes beyond three-year election cycles, and some transparency about implementing it. 
    "The PCE's recommendations for carbon budgeting and creating a climate commission would be a big step in the right direction."
    Mr Tong said: "The PCE report is a resounding endorsement for a new climate law along the lines of Generation Zero's Zero Carbon Act, which WWF-New Zealand and our partners have called for".
    The PCE's call for regular climate change-risk assessments must include the risk to nature, said Forest & Bird climate advocate Adelia Hallett.
    "Our native species are already in trouble. There are 3000 native species already heading towards extinction and 800 of those are in serious trouble," Ms Hallett said.
    "Throw in the impacts of climate change, and we could lose species like tuatara whose sex is determined by temperatures when they are in their eggs, penguins whose feeding grounds will disappear because of ocean warming and acidification, fairy terns and other shore birds whose nesting grounds will be destroyed by storms and rising seas – and numerous other species."
    The PCE's support for a new climate law is a significant step forward, said Oxfam New Zealand advocacy and campaigns director Paula Feehan.
    "Climate change is happening now and it's affecting us all – our Pacific neighbours, people living in poverty, our communities and our businesses here in New Zealand," Ms Feehan said.
    "Oxfam therefore welcomes the PCE's announcement today supporting climate legislation – a significant step forward to meaningfully tackle climate change."
    For more information about the PCE report visit
    WWF-New Zealand, Forest & Bird and Oxfam New Zealand are the key partners working to support youth organisation Generation Zero's call for a new climate law, the Zero Carbon Act. For more information about the Zero Carbon Act visit

  • Pressure on as Freshwater Rescue Plan gains support

    Freshwater Rescue Plan<br />© Freshwater Rescue PlanThe campaign for better water quality is continuing to gather support, with organisations representing half a million members and supporters now backing the recently launched Freshwater Rescue Plan.

    Support has been boosted with eight new organisations giving their backing to the Plan.

    The new supporters are WWF-New Zealand, ActionStation, Environment and Conservation Organisations of Aotearoa New Zealand (ECO), New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers, New Zealand Recreation Association, Pure Advantage, Waitaha Executive Grandmothers Council, and Whitewater New Zealand.

    Their support means the Plan's backers now include 16 well-known organisations with collective support from at least half a million people. Supporters include leaders in the science, public health, tourism, recreation, community, and environmental sectors.

    The original supporters of the Freshwater Rescue Plan are Choose Clean Water, Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand Inc., Fish & Game New Zealand, Forest & Bird, Greenpeace New Zealand, OraTaiao - New Zealand Climate & Health Council, the Public Health Association, and the Tourism Export Council of New Zealand.

    The Freshwater Rescue Plan was launched in Wellington last month in reaction to the Government's disappointing 'Clean Water Package', which has been widely criticized for being complicated, confusing, lacking urgency and weakening protection for freshwater ecosystems.

    The Freshwater Rescue Plan provides seven achievable steps for the Government to protect the health of New Zealand's people, wildlife, and waterways. Supporters say it is a sensible and realistic strategy to rescue New Zealand's rivers, lakes and streams from their present, dangerously unhealthy state.

    Fresh water is now one of the most important issues facing New Zealanders this election year and pressure is building on political parties to support the Rescue Plan to reverse the decline in freshwater quality.

    The Rescue Plan's supporters want all political parties to face up to their environmental responsibility and adopt the entire plan into their policies.

    The supporters are disappointed with the government's response, saying it has rejected the plan and ignored requests for meetings.

    The organisations backing the Freshwater Rescue Plan are repeating their offer to meet with the government and work with it to achieve the plan's goals which will benefit all New Zealanders' environment, health and economy.

    The plan's supporters say the health of people and wildlife is suffering from widespread freshwater pollution and are calling on the government to show it is taking the degraded state of our rivers and lakes seriously.

    The Freshwater Rescue Plan's steps include setting strict and enforceable water quality standards based on human health and ecosystems health limits, withdrawing public subsidies of irrigation schemes, supporting sustainable agricultural practices, and decreasing cow numbers.

    The plan also calls for better water quality reporting, a polluter pays system, and a long-term goal of prioritising a low-carbon economy for New Zealand.

    If all seven steps of the Freshwater Rescue Plan are enacted, fresh water in Aotearoa can return to the once pristine state that New Zealand is known for.

    Seven steps of the Freshwater Rescue Plan:

    1. Prioritise the health of people and their waterways by setting strict and enforceable water quality standards, based on human and ecosystem health limits.
    2. Withdraw all public subsidies of irrigation schemes, as they increase pressure on waterways.
    3. Invest in an Agricultural Transition Fund, to support the country's shift away from environmentally-damaging farming methods by redirecting $480 million of public money earmarked for irrigation.
    4. Implement strategies to decrease cow numbers immediately.
    5. Reduce freshwater contamination by instigating polluter pays systems nationally.
    6. Address the performance of regional council's on improving water quality through quarterly reports from the Ministry for the Environment on enforcement, breaches and monitoring.
    7. Adopt OECD recommendation to establish a whole-of-government, multi-stakeholder process to develop a long-term vision for the transition of New Zealand to a low-carbon, greener economy.
    For more information visit

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