Land for Wildlife Programme

September 2014

A voluntary biodiversity programme is introduced to the Bay of Plenty and Waikato

Land for Wildlife is a successful and voluntary Australian biodiversity programme that has been helping landowners for 30 years. Forest & Bird is now running a New Zealand version in the catchments draining to the Tauranga harbour in the Bay of Plenty and the Waihou River in the Waikato.

Al Fleming, Forest & Bird’s central North Island field officer, recently undertook a Winston Churchill fellowship to investigate the scheme in Australia. Fleming says anyone who wants to manage their land better for nature conservation can be part of the scheme, which aims to integrate biodiversity protection with other land uses on farms, orchards and lifestyle blocks.

In Australia more than 15,500 landowners are signed up covering 1,480,000ha, and in Victoria where it started, 3% of the land area is in the scheme. So far, in the first year of the three-year pilot project, Forest & Bird has 20 landowners committed.

“Our goal is to achieve 60 over three years. In Australia, Land for Wildlife is delivered by a range of organisations including state government, regional councils, their DOC equivalent and environmental NGOs similar to Forest & Bird. The programme is apolitical and no one “owns it” which is part of its appeal,” he says. It is free to join and there are no covenants or any other legal obligations.

“We are talking to a number of other organisations who may see the value in the programme and deliver it themselves over time.”

Australian surveys have found a huge commitment from landowners, Fleming says. “For every dollar spent by the organisation delivering Land for Wildlife, the landowner goes on to spend $11, not including their time.”

The programme offers free advice about improving land for native animals and plants.

“When a landowner contacts us we send an ecologist to the property and they draw up a personalised property report.” That includes recommendations about conservation actions. Species lists identify plants and animals in the natural areas on the property and landowners are given advice about controlling plant and animal pests, erosion control, riparian protection and planting recommendations. For example a local beef and sheep farmer in Tauranga was given a plan for a grid of bait stations for multiple pest control.

Landowners are also given a picture of where their properties sit alongside other properties in the area, for example their land may be part of a local wildlife corridor.

Land for Wildlife is available to all kinds of landowners including farmers, orchardists, lifestyle block owners, schools, sports clubs and businesses.

The first landowner to sign up was the Omokoroa Golf Club, which has 32ha of land next to the estuary in the Bay of Plenty.

Habitat creation projects may also count. The key is that you are willing to manage all or part of your property for the benefit of native plants and animals.”

The land may qualify for full membership or “working towards” status based on the natural features present and the work done to manage them.

If the property qualifies, the landowner receives a Land for Wildlife sign to hang on the front gate and full membership.

Fleming says the sign is an acknowledgement of the landowner’s commitment and it creates an understanding that they are part of a wider programme.

“Working towards” properties will still receive the property report and the property will be reassessed once the habitat quality has improved or issues have been addressed.

The programme only lasts while the particular person owns the property, and is not incumbent on the next owner.

The Land for Wildlife pilot has funding from DOC’s Biofunds, the Waikato Regional Council and World Wildlife Fund.

In an area that has been largely cleared for farming, Allan Haines is helping manage Lance and Bridget O’Sullivan’s Waikato farm and kahikatea forest area in a new Land for Wildlife scheme. It is a 200ha farm, with a milking platform of 172ha. About 20ha of the farm is made up of native bush and pine plantations. They winter 550 cows and aim to milk about 540.

Allan says, “It’s an animal friendly farm, with lots of shade and shelter and animal welfare is a priority for us. Lance is heavily into planting trees, and we have planted most of the fenced off waterways. He’s really keen on birds.”

“The farm here has a great stand of kahikatea on it, and we’ve been doing pest control with bait stations for possums and rats.”

“We had a visit from ecologist Hamish Dean who surveyed the property as part of the Land for Wildlife programme. He recommended we do a few more things like more regular pest control and gave us a list of weed species to get under control in the next five years: in particular, ivy, tree privet and Japanese honeysuckle. He thought we should plant some edge areas to give more protection to the forest. And he gave us a map with an overlay of where all the bait stations are. During his visit, he recorded 11 bird species and 64 plant species.”

For more information about the scheme, go to