3 Aug 2015

Nelson brings nature to town

5:30 am on 3 August 2015

Nelson City Council is to spend $6 million over the next decade on a project to protect and restore its natural environment.

Meg Rutledge of the Natureland Wildlife Trust.

Meg Rutledge of the Natureland Wildlife Trust. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

The project, Nelson Nature, is described by the city's mayor Rachel Reese as one of the country's largest biodiversity projects.

It has attracted high praise from community and preservation groups, including the Department of Conservation.

DOC partnerships manager in Nelson Martin Rodd said it would create a flourishing wildlife habitat at peoples' back doors.

Department of Conservation partnerships manager in Nelson, Martin Rodd (left).

Department of Conservation partnerships manager in Nelson, Martin Rodd (left). Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

"You're going to see fresh water flowing out from rivers you'll be able to swim in - hopefully you'll be able to drink it. You're going to see native birds that haven't been seen for many, many years in your gardens, and when you get out into the estuaries you'll be able to eat the shellfish.

"This is about bringing nature to town," Mr Rodd said.

Activities will include increased pest and weed control, more riverside fencing and planting, and encouraging landowners to re-vegetate unproductive land by planting more native species. Private land owners will also be encouraged to take part by improving habitats for wildlife.

The project will cost around $500,000 a year for the first five years and $650,000 a year after that.

Ms Reese said it was a win for a concept she has fought from the sidelines for a long time.

"I've been a very willing participant of the Nelson Biodiversity Forum since I became a councillor. Before then I spent a lot of time working with environmental groups, and a lot of that was in the Environment Court or appearing at select committee on resource consent and biodiversity issues.

"I find it a whole lot more satisfying to spend my time working alongside people doing real stuff, and that's what this is about."

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese at the launch of Nelson Nature.

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese at the launch of Nelson Nature. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

The programme will build on the contributions of several groups, such as the Nelson Biodiversity Forum, and the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary on the city outskirts.

Mr Rodd said Nelson administers some nationally significant ecological areas, and that the programme stands out because of the different groups taking part, with one goal at heart.

"It's one thing to just go and do some work, and it's another to involve your community directly in that, and that's what they've done."

Zoologist Meg Rutledge, who runs Nelson's Natureland Wildlife Trust with her husband Mike, believed Nelson Nature would facilitate the messages they were trying to get across.

Natureland is breeding kakariki on behalf of the Nelson region's Project Janszoon and the Department of Conservation, to help boost the native parrot population in the Abel Tasman National Park.

Mrs Rutledge said the council project was ambitious and Nelson had been innovative in tackling such a large project.

"Based on the success Wellington has had, Nelson could follow a similar path."

Ms Reese said being an environmental hot spot had spin-offs for attracting an increasingly discerning tourist market. But mostly, the project told the story of Nelson city.