New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2021) 45(1): 3420

Managing and protecting native biodiversity on-farm – what do sheep and beef farmers think?

Research Article
Fleur J. F. Maseyk 1*
Bruce Small 2
Roxanne J. T. Henwood 3
Jennifer Pannell 4
Hannah L. Buckley 4
David A. Norton 5
  1. The Catalyst Group, 1 Queens Wharf, PO Box 1048, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
  2. Farm Systems and Environment, AgResearch, Ruakura Agricultural Centre, Private Bag 3123, Waikato Mail Centre, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand
  3. Farm Systems and Environment, AgResearch, Lincoln Research Centre, Private Bag 4749, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
  4. School of Science, Auckland University of Technology, Private Bag 92006, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
  5. Te Kura Ngahere | School of Forestry, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

Despite one-third of New Zealand’s landmass being protected as public conservation land, the country still faces significant conservation challenges. Nearly 50% of the country’s landmass has been converted to pastoral farming, and biological invasions pose a sustained and growing threat to remaining biodiversity across all land tenures. Managing and protecting biodiversity on-farm provides vast opportunities to create nature-rich pastoral landscapes. A key step towards bringing about necessary behaviour change to achieve this is increasing insights into farmers’ attitudes towards the value of native biodiversity on their farms. Using a questionnaire underpinned by the Theory of Planned Behaviour, we surveyed 500 sheep and beef farmers from around New Zealand as to their beliefs and attitudes and perceived barriers relating to the protection and management of native biodiversity on their farm. Although the survey respondents were largely homogenous, the surveyed group of farmers were heterogeneous in their responses. When asked about advantages associated with managing and protecting native biodiversity on their farms, 690 distinct responses were provided, spanning social (47%), environmental (34%), practical (10%), and economic (2%) themes. In contrast, identified disadvantages were fewer (530 distinct responses) and less wide-ranging in scope, clustering around economic (44%), practical (26%) and social (25%) themes. Nearly three times as many farmers stated there were no disadvantages (22%) than stated there were no advantages (8%). However, the most frequently cited disadvantages were cost and time, which were also commonly cited as barriers to managing biodiversity. Our study illustrates that sheep and beef farmers perceive may advantages in maintaining native biodiversity on-farm, but there is a clear desire for greater support in overcoming identified barriers and this will require a targeted policy response.