by Kevin Hague
There is a perceived conflict between the environment and the economy. John Key often talks about balance but the reality as we all know is somewhat different. Personally I, like many New Zealanders am happy to protect areas like the Whangamarino wetland just because there are special. Some members of our society want to take a more “balanced” approach though. I still struggle with understanding what they mean by balanced. Exactly what is their goal apart from trying to satisfy as many people as possible at the same time?
Much of New Zealand’s conservation land survived because it was unsuitable for “development” into productive land. Unfortunately our lowland wetlands – of which 90% have already been drained – make for good pasture once drained. Rich and diverse habitats wetlands play an important role. Acting as filters to our rivers – something which is severely needed currently – wetlands also play a role as a buffer for floods. Able to absorb large amounts of water a wetland can be an important part of a flood protection scheme. For example the Whangamarino is part of a flood protection scheme on the lower Waikato. With the changing climate that we face more frequent, more damaging flood events are a certainty for much of the country. While I hesitate to talk about killing birds, the opportunity to rescue or return some of our lowland wetlands with both flood protection and water filtration benefits seems to me a no brainer.
While the weather might restrict outdoor conservation pursuits this weekend to the hardy few there are indoor events happening this weekend so check out www.conservationweek.org.nz for more details. While Russel might be championing the Kokako (and a Pureora National Park) for the Forest and Bird, Bird of the year that doesn’t mean that you can’t with a clear conscience check out the Unnatural History of the Kakapo. There are screenings happening around the country. If the rain does keep you inside over the weekend I can recommend checking out nzonscreen.com. They have some great old documentaries about our wonderful native treasures.