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Protecting our precious places

Covenant benefits

Benefits to New Zealand - our unique heritage

Photo: Loralee HydeOpen space covenants help to protect New Zealand's unique natural and cultural heritage.

  • Much of our flora and fauna is endemic to New Zealand (found nowhere else in the world) having evolved in isolation from other landmasses.
  • Many places In New Zealand have special meaning and history relating to early settlement. Sometimes there are physical traces, such as pa sites. Sometimes there are spiritual and historic associations to do with former inhabitants and events.

This heritage helps to define our sense of national identity and contributes to our enjoyment and appreciation of New Zealand. Moreover, people from all over the world admire our landscapes and natural environments.

However, the loss of natural habitats and the declining diversity of our indigenous flora and fauna is regarded as one of our biggest environmental problems. A number of indigenous species are already extinct and many others are under threat.

Covenants are vital to protecting our heritage because:

  • 70% of New Zealand is privately owned (approximately 19 million hectares), and
  • Threatened habitats occur mainly on the lowlands on private land, where even small remnants are important.

Benefits to landowners

Many landowners are motivated to protect natural features because it makes good land management sense.

Bush and wetlands help filter rain and runoff, thus improving water quality, encouraging nutrients to recycle and reducing soil erosion. Fencing off natural areas can help to protect stream banks and can keep stock out of hard-to-manage areas. Often, fencing 'difficult' areas like bushy gullies or swampy areas can assist in achieving efficient paddock layout that focuses on the most productive land. Forest remnants can reduce wind and provide shade, enhancing stock management and production.

Many landowners also gain enormous satisfaction in bringing back birdsong and the seasonal flowers and fruit of our native plants.

Healthy landscapes - where productive land uses co-exist with natural systems - beautify and add economic value to farm properties.

Benefits to communities - the shared environment

A single covenant within a community often inspires other landowners to follow suit and collectively protect special values in their area. Connecting remnant natural areas, or reducing the distance between them, can greatly assist their biodiversity and long-term viability by enabling native species to spread and re-establish over wider areas. Clusters of covenants can help protect catchments, contribute to wider special management areas and boost local community initiatives.

Benefits to councils

Covenants can help district and regional councils to fulfil their responsibilities under the Resource Management Act, including the recognition and protection of natural heritage, landscapes, cultural heritage and biodiversity.

The National Trust offers councils:

  • Expertise in legal protection via open space covenants
  • Sharing of costs such as fencing
  • An 'independent' facilitating relationship with landowners, and
  • Ongoing monitoring to ensure that covenant terms and conditions are being met.

Benefits to future generations

Most open space covenants are in perpetuity to ensure that the special features they protect will be there for future generations.

Monitoring shows that change in ownership does not affect adherence to covenant conditions.

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