New Zealand has a unique opportunity to reshape the future of 1.2 million hectares, or 5% of the country. Since 1990, land clearance and development in the South Island high country have removed large areas of native vegetation, destroying already tenuous endemic species populations, and rare and threatened ecosystems. Important ecosystems and ecological values have been subtly or dramatically degraded through tenure review, discretionary consents, and invasions of plant and animal pests.
We used recent satellite imagery to quantify the extent, type, and rate of conversion of remaining indigenous grasslands in the inland eastern South Island of New Zealand in recent years. We describe the pattern of conversion in relation to national classifications of land use capability and land environments, and ecological and administrative districts and regions. We show that although large areas of indigenous grasslands remain, grassland loss has been ongoing. Indigenous grassland was reduced in the study area by 3% (70 200 ha) between 1990 and 2008.