Unlocking the power of biodiversity: Expert shares game-changing tips for rural landowners

Unlocking the power of biodiversity: Expert shares game-changing tips for rural landowners

Professor David Norton has over 40 years experience in New Zealand ecology and conservation across public and private land until he retired from his work at the University of Canterbury in 2022.

Since then he has been kept busy with his own consultancy business Biodiversity Solutions and is well-known for his work with native biodiversity within primary production systems, especially around sheep and beef farms.

Professor Norton told REX host Dominic George that Aotearoa is the home to some extremely unique flora and fauna, which is something the rural sector can take advantage of in an international market.

" [Biodiversity is] about acknowledging what wonderful things we have here in New Zealand," he said.

"It's about looking after what we have, it's about enhancing what we have but it's about doing that within the context of this is our story, this is what makes us different.

"It's important for its own sake but it's also an important part of our story."

Although Professor Norton said biodiversity can seem like a bit of a 'box ticking exercise' for councils and other governing bodies, he believes it is so much more than that.

"Biodiversity is a journey and I think farmers just like when they go on a journey to improve the reproductive potential of their cattle or sheep, playing with the genetics is a journey.

"The benefits of biodiversity are going to be massive because it is our point of difference to any other parts of the world."

He encourages any farmers or rural landowners particularly to work on implementing biodiversity management into their daily routine and said there are a few simple steps that anyone can do to help their biodiversity thrive.

"It's really important to understand what you have.

"Set yourself some goals, where do you want to go with biodiversity on your farm? Think about what the threats and risks to achieving those goals might be.

"Looking at management in a stage manner, you can't do it all in one day, do it over multiple years and then monitor what you achieve."

Things like on-farm planting, fencing off wetlands, remnants or streams and predator control through traps are some tangible examples Professor Norton identified of biodiversity management that he is seeing on New Zealand farms and is really impressed with.

He also warned farmers not to underestimate the impact of deer and goats on biodiversity, which are specifically challenging because they require coordinated management across more than just one single farm.

"Every farmer I go to is really frustrated by deer and goats and the impacts they are having."

Other pests like possums and wallabies are also challenging when it comes to managing biodiversity and Professor Norton said working together with surrounding farmers and landowners is the best way to manage these threats.

Listen to the full chat between Emeritus Professor David Norton and Dominic George above.

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