New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2004) 28(2): 295-305

Assessing significance for biodiversity conservation on private land in New Zealand

Forum Article
David A. Norton 1
Judith Roper-Lindsay 2
  1. School of Forestry, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand
  2. Boffa Miskell Ltd., P.O. Box 110, Christchurch, New Zealand

The assessment of ecological significance is a key part of a territorial local authority’s (TLA) responsibility to provide for the protection of areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna as required under Section 6(c) of the Resource Management Act (RMA) 1991. While a number of methods have been used to achieve this, these have been largely unpublished and there is considerable variability in the approach taken by different TLAs. We propose four criteria (rarity and distinctiveness, representativeness, ecological context, and sustainability) for assessing significance of indigenous biodiversity in terms of RMA Section 6(c). These criteria could form the basis for a consistent national approach to significance assessment. These criteria have been developed from early assessment schemes such as the Protected Natural Areas Programme. While there is no one “right” system for conservation assessment, we hope this paper will stimulate discussion amongst the ecological community on the best ways to undertake significance assessment.