A LEEP forward : biodiversity futures for New Zealand : a thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Master of Resource and Environmental Planning at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Loss of indigenous biodiversity continues in New Zealand. Despite admirable goals in the NZBS 2000 to the contrary, efforts at improved biodiversity conservation have been insufficient to halt loss of significant amounts of indigenous forest and wildlife habitat. Increasing numbers of native species are moving towards critically endangered and extinction. Whatever we are doing in New Zealand, it is not effective enough. The aim of this study is to firstly identify factors contributing to the failure, “to halt the decline of indigenous biodiversity” in New Zealand and to then consider opportunities to overcome these barriers. In considering opportunities, this study then reviews the emerging discipline of landscape ecology as an answer to, at least, some of those factors and the recurring calls from New Zealand ecologists for a more integrated and holistic approach to biodiversity conservation. Recent advances in the planning framework and particularly provisions for biodiversity conservation in England are explored as a model of practical application of landscape ecological principles to land-use planning. From this review, the study proposes a new ‘LEEP’ model for strategic biodiversity conservation that produces a regional-scale spatial conservation map and accompanying policy and implementation guide. Together they provide an integrated and holistic approach to restoring or creating functional landscapes that also recognises and provides for human activities and development. Application of the LEEP model is demonstrated through a case study of the Wellington region. Benefits and potential uses of the map and policy outputs are canvassed. Interviews with leading New Zealand and international ecologists provide an assessment of the current status of landscape ecology and interviewees also act as an expert ‘test panel’ against which the Wellington maps and guides produced from the ‘LEEP’ model are assessed. Finally, suggestions are provided for development of the new model and future research needs towards fuller and more effective implementation of this approach to biodiversity conservation in the New Zealand context.
Landscape ecology, Biodiversity conservation, New Zealand, LEEP model