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Key Native Ecosystems

Key Native Ecosystems

Updated 11 May 2022 4:17pm

Renata Ridge

Our region is famous for its lush native forests, teeming with native birds and animals. However these precious environments need our protection as their survival is threatened by introduced pest animals and plants, and the effects from intensified land use.

The Key Native Ecosystem Programme is how we can ensure we have a full range of naturally occurring habitats that are healthy and functioning, and supporting diverse native plants and animals.

This is part of our role to protect our region’s environment and is guided by our Regional Policy Statement as part of the government’s Resource Management Act 1991.

Why do we protect these sites? 

Without active management of KNE sites, many native plants and animals would not survive there. The protection of these areas is an investment in the future of the Wellington region’s representative ecosystems.

We have identified areas with high biodiversity values in different ecosystem types (forest, wetland, freshwater, estuarine and coastal) using current scientific knowledge and spatial data.

These KNE sites can be in regional parks and on private land. Not all areas with native ecosystems can be managed with our limited funds. The areas that are part of the KNE programme have been identified and prioritised for management and financial support.

How we protect KNEs

We have developed management plans to restore and maintain each KNE site. Some of the ways we do this are:

  • Legal protection (covenanting) to protect the ecosystem from land use change
  • Plant and animal pest control to protect native plants and animals from being eaten or outcompeted by introduced pests
  • Stock exclusion measures to protect ecosystems from being trampled or browsed by livestock
  • Re-vegetation of native vegetation cover to help restore areas where native plants have been depleted
  • Re-establishing fish passages in streams where the connection between waterways has been lost

To actively manage KNE sites we work with stakeholders including: iwi, territorial authorities, the Department of Conservation, private landowners, other agencies, non-government organisations, and the regional community.

Much of the work is carried out by our staff and contractors. Our Biosecurity Officers have an extensive programme of pest plant and animal control. See the Regional Pest Management Plan for details.

When we work on private land it is at the discretion of landowners, and their involvement in the programme is voluntary.

It can take many years for an ecosystem to recover from damage caused by human activities and introduced species. This is why the management of KNEs is a long-term commitment. 

What are high biodiversity values?

For each area we look at the rarity and diversity of ecosystems, and plants and animals. For example, if a wetland is in its original condition, and has rare plants and animals living there, it will have a higher biodiversity values. 

For more information on Key Native Ecosystems, contact us at