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Key Native Ecosystems

Key Native Ecosystems

Updated 4 March 2020 9:04am


New Zealand’s landscapes are renowned for their pristine grandeur and tranquillity. However, many of the remaining native ecosystems are threatened by introduced pest animals and plants, and effects from intensified land use. The Key Native Ecosystems (KNE) programme is designed to protect areas that are important for our native plants and animals in the Wellington region.

Why do we protect Key Native Ecosystems?

Councils play an important role in the management of biodiversity. Under the Resource Management Act 1991 significant indigenous vegetation and animals, as well as the habitats of threatened animals and plants, need to be protected.

The Greater Wellington Regional Council’s vision for biodiversity is:

“The Wellington region contains a full range of naturally occurring habitats and ecosystems that are in a healthy functioning state and supporting indigenous biodiversity.”

Without active management of Key Native Ecosystems, many native plants and animals could not survive. The Key Native Ecosystems programme aims to provide ongoing protection to maintain or restore the native plants and animals, as well as the ecological function by managing threats, like pest plants and animals. The protection of these areas is an invaluable investment in the future of Wellington region ecosystems.

How do we protect Key Native Ecosystems?

To restore or maintain Key Native Ecosystems, threats to native plants and animals need to be managed. Common methods to manage Key Native Ecosystems include:

  • Legal protection (covenanting) to protect the ecosystem from land use change.
  • Plant and animal pest control to protect native plants and animals from being eaten or outcompeted by introduced pests.
  • Stock exclusion measures to protect ecosystems from being trampled or browsed by livestock.
  • Re-vegetation of native vegetation cover to help restore areas where native plants have been depleted.
  • Re-establishing fish passages in streams where the connection between waterways has been lost.

Not all areas with native ecosystems can be managed with our limited funds. The areas that are part of the KNE programme have been identified and prioritised for management and financial support. Current scientific knowledge and spatial data was used to identify areas with high biodiversity values.  Different types of ecosystems (forest, wetland, freshwater, estuarine, coastal, and marine) were identified on both public and private land using widely accepted criteria including representativeness, rarity and diversity.

To actively manage KNE areas, we work proactively and in partnership with stakeholders. Stakeholders include iwi, territorial authorities, the Department of Conservation, private landowners, other agencies, non-government organisations, and the regional community. When we work on private land, it is at the discretion of landowners, and their involvement in the programme is entirely voluntary.

Often it takes many years for an ecosystem to recover. This is why the management of Key Native Ecosystems is a long term commitment. The management plans we prepare for KNEs specify actions for the ongoing protection to achieve objectives for sites.

What are high biodiversity values?

Biodiversity values are identified to determine the significance of areas in line with the Regional Policy Statement. To do this, criteria are used that include representativeness, rarity and diversity of an area or the species therein. For example, the more representative a remnant wetland is of the original condition and the more rare species live there, the higher its biodiversity values are.

For more information on Key Native Ecosystems, please contact us at

Renata Ridge