Backyard Tāonga: Our Story

How we got started

In 2007, the Council adopted a Biodiversity Action Plan  to coordinate its biodiversity activities and identify local priorities. Our activities at that time covered pest control, revegetation planting and partnerships with the community. The action plan was a responsibility for the Council to meet national targets set by the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy.  Our vision statement is:

"Wellington is a city that protects and restores biodiversity and proudly showcases its natural areas. It is a city renowned for its kaitiakitanga, its environmental guardianship."

In 2015 Council approved Our Natural Capital: Wellington’s Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, This action plan has four goals:

  1. Protect the ecologically significant areas on both private and public land,
  2. Restore ecologically significant areas, create buffer zones and connect them,
  3. Reduce pest numbers throughout the city,
  4. Raise awareness of the issues facing indigenous biodiversity

During this time, Greater Wellington Regional Council’s Regional Policy Statement introduced policies to protect important areas of native bush and landscapes, making Backyard Tāonga part of a regional legal requirement.

Identifying Backyard Tāonga - Technical Desktop Studies

The next step was to identify what needs protecting.  This involved surveying and auditing landscapes and ecological sites throughout the city, according to the legislative criteria.

In December 2016, Wildlands Ecologists carried out a technical desktop study based on a methodology that included:

  • Review existing information
    • All relevant ecological information on Wellington city.
    • Relevant background information
    • Conservation threat classification
    • Information on the location, tenure, local authority, protection size, and biodiversity values.
  • Mapping
    • Initial mapping of potential SNA boundaries
    • Use of aerial photography.
  • Significance Assessment
    • Each potential Significant Natural Area was assessed against the ecological significance criteria in Policy 23 of the Regional Policy Statement.

In 2017 Boffa Miskell carried out a similar study to identify and evaluate Wellington’s special amenity landscapes and features.  These character areas distinguish landscapes based on descriptions of biophysical, aesthetic, and cultural attributes that make a particular contribution to landscape character.  These are the places visited and enjoyed by Wellingtonians every day.

What did we find?

Wildlands found that our city is home to 163 potential Significant Natural Areas that make up of 5,492 hectares of indigenous vegetation and habitat.  About half of this is in public parks and reserves, with the rest on privately owned land.

Wildlands used a combination of aerial imagery, Google Earth and Wellington ecological site references that are publically available to make their assessment.  They also carried out some site confirmation from public vantage points.

Boffa Miskell’s landscape evaluation showed that, based on the natural science, sensory factors and shared and recognised values, Wellington city has:

A mana whenua assessment was completed by the relevant iwi.

On 30 August, the Council wrote to around 1,700 landowners to let them know that their land could be part of an important area of native bush, or natural landscape.  We warmly invite landowners to talk to us about what they have and ways we can work together to find the right balance of protection and practical use.

Wildlands Report - Audit of Potentially Significant Natural Areas for Wellington City: Stage 1 Desktop Analysis PDF - 2790.87 KB

Boffa Miskell Report - Wellington City Landscape Evaluation, Draft Technical Assessment Prepared for Wellington City Council PDF - 15820.49 KB

Then we did our homework

To put your map together, we used Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping to overlay property information with the findings from the reports and iwi assessment.

The process:

  • We checked the aerial visuals against de-vegetation activity, and removed anything that is no longer in place. We updated these boundaries and asked Wildlands ecologists to review them again to make sure we have the most current information.
  • We gathered resource consent data, Maori heritage sites, QEII covenants, freshwater and wetland information layers as well as District Plan zoning layers to further confirm our information.
  • We looked at current planning provisions and policies, such as the hilltops and ridgelines as well as the areas that we already protect under the District Plan as part of Conservation and Open Space.
  • We removed areas that were too small to add any ecological value.

Where we're up to now

We are talking with landowners to figure out the best way to protect these special areas. Later in 2020 as part of the District Plan Review we will ask people to tell us what they think about ideas for protecting and enhancing natural areas and landscapes, and ways that the City Council and our partners can help to do that.