Air New Zealand, the Department of Conservation (DOC) and local iwi have today announced new conservation initiatives on three of the country’s Great Walks - the Heaphy Track, the Whanganui River Journey and Lake Waikaremoana. The projects are an expansion of the Air New Zealand Great Walks Biodiversity Project.
Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Christopher Luxon announced the new initiatives at a sustainability event the airline held in Auckland this morning for around 400 business leaders.
“As a tourism organisation, we believe we have a vital role to play in ensuring our unique, natural environment that our industry relies so heavily upon is looked after and we are incredibly proud to support DOC and local iwi to get these key projects underway. The Whanganui River Journey and Heaphy Track are incredibly popular with close to 17,000 people taking them on in the past year alone. These new projects will enhance the experience these visitors have on the tracks and importantly enable our native bird species to thrive,” says Mr Luxon.
On the Heaphy Track work will centre on Gouland Downs – expanding an existing predator control trapping network to ten times its current size. This network will support an array of native wildlife, including great spotted kiwi/roa and blue duck/whio, and could pave the way for a new recovery site for critically endangered takahē. The airline and DOC are working in partnership with the Manawhenua Ki Mohua iwi collective at this location.
The Whanganui River Journey winds through the second largest area of lowland native forest in the North Island - an important stronghold for northern brown kiwi. Three new projects along the journey will be undertaken in conjunction with the Whitianga Papa Tupu Ora Trust. These focus on improving forest condition through intensified goat control, supporting native wildlife by establishing a network of self-resetting traps and researching kiwi population growth.
With the support of Ngāi Tūhoe and the Te Urewera Board, rat and possum control work will also get underway on Waikaremoana Great Walk which will help protect the area’s many native species including parakeet/kākāriki, grey duck, scaup, dabchick and beech mistletoes.
DOC Director-General Lou Sanson says the addition of these sites benefits conservation and further heightens the appeal of these Great Walks.
“Protecting and increasing native wildlife on these world-renowned experiences is a win for nature and for visitors. Through this partnership, our Great Walks will increasingly showcase thriving natural habitats complete with some of our rarest and most engaging species.”
The three sites will sit alongside projects on the Milford and Routeburn tracks in partnership with Ngāi Tahu, and the Abel Tasman Coast Track in partnership with Manawhenua Ki Mohua, which the airline currently supports.
Since Air New Zealand first partnered with DOC in 2012, the airline has helped to grow visitor numbers to the country’s nine Great Walks by 48 percent through extensive marketing support. The partnership has also supported important biodiversity work on the Great Walks, enabled monitoring of 13 marine reserves and moved more than 2,000 endangered species around the country to safe new breeding sites.
Air New Zealand's support for conservation initiatives with DOC is worth more than $1 million annually.