Wednesday, 08 September 2021 15:30

Point of view: Predator Free 2050

Written by  Tony Hoksbergen
Tony Hoksbergen Tony Hoksbergen

New Zealand. We are a unique land with an amazing array of natural resources and diversity of landscapes, climates and soils.

We have unique fauna and flora which once flourished under our splendid isolation. The wine industry today works hard and very successfully to convert the expression of the land and the environment into something our country can be proud of by utilising the skills and passion of many dedicated people.

However, there is another part to the story about our use of our land. Since the advent of people arriving here, our footprint on the land has had dramatic consequences. The farming areas of the country, including those where vineyards are located, have been dramatically modified from their natural state. The conversion of this natural environment has come at significant cost to our native species, but over recent years there has been a noticeable increase in awareness of this issue. There is now a significant groundswell of individuals and groups of people who are wanting to reconnect with our natural heritage and to do something meaningful about restoring some balance. One way they are doing this is by taking on the enormous challenge of increasing biodiversity through the planting of trees and reducing pest populations to create environments where our native species can re-establish.

I am a firm believer that the wine industry has been, and continues to be, at the forefront of progressive initiatives. Using one small example that is relevant to this article; just look at what has been achieved with Sustainable Winegrowing since its inception approximately 25 years ago. Building on this, there has been increasing uptake in organic farming practices, and now regenerative farming is being explored.

Our industry already has some advantages over others. Philosophically, for many producers at least, it is not driven by the exploitation of resources. Our people are already onboard in terms of working with their natural environment.

I am frequently delighted to hear of, and read about, wineries and vineyards increasing biodiversity by investing time, money and effort into establishing wetlands, native plantings or other ecological habitats on their property. These initiatives provide an amazing opportunity to establish a flourishing ecosystem but this will not happen by itself. Most of you will be aware of the Predator Free New Zealand initiative and its 2050 goal. Around the country there are multiple volunteer groups supporting broader council or government initiatives to undertake pest control in special areas.

There is a huge amount of support for those who, with a little investment in time, can learn about predator trapping with the focus predominantly on rats, mustelids and opossums. As someone who contributes some of my time each week in my local community checking traplines for these pests, I can say it is hugely rewarding removing a successful catch from a trap and enjoying the ever increasing presence of tūi, bellbirds, kererū, kākā, dotterels, and other native birds in my rural community.

I am aware some of you are already taking steps on your own properties. To those of you who aren’t and have a native planting close to your vineyard, I urge you to give it a go and over time you will see the ecosystem recover. Even if you don’t have time yourself, if you put the word about, I am sure your area will have local volunteers who will monitor your traplines.

With vineyards spread across so many diverse habitats from the far north to down south, we can reach so many different species.

And this is also potentially a great story for our industry. A broader ecosystem approach to your sustainabi l i ty programme might enhance your reputation with your customers by demonstrating, in a meaningful and tangible way, that you work with the land and your communities – that you are doing your bit to try and turn around the sad story of our declining native wildlife.

Many in our industry are already so well placed. We have people who already have an inherent interest in the land and its sustainable use.

So if you are not already giving it a go, even if you don’t aspire to the bigger Predator Free New Zealand challenge, I urge you to consider it on your own small scale. Every little effort helps, and you may find it will enrich your life along the way.

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