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Biodiversity Net Gain in New Zealand

Biodiversity Loss is the lesser-known evil twin of the topic de jour, the Climate Crisis.  As the climate changes and habitats become unable to sustain life, we face the ongoing extinction of species.  And with all species contributing to a successful ecosystem, every missing link makes our survival a little more wobbly.
Here in Aotearoa New Zealand we are not immune. It is not just our namesake, the Kiwi, whose future is in jeopardy.
Luckily for us, we still have the ability to make amends, at least for most species.
This edition, we’re thrilled to welcome guest writer, Black Pine collaborator and Landscape Architect, Alithea Johns of Skopos Design.  Alithea outlines ‘the way forwards’, sharing her perspective and experience in this arena.

Also, adding to our list of environmentally friendly building products, we look at Macrocarpa - a widely used softwood timber with natural durability properties.

We hope you enjoy the read and find our content useful.
Feel free to let us know your thoughts and above all, take care of each other and stay healthy!

November 2021

Duncan Sinclair - 027 487 7766
In this Issue:
Biodiversity Net Gain in New Zealand
Landscape Architect  Alithea Johns of Skopos Design shows us the way forwards.
A naturally durable and chemical-free timber option.


Biodiversity Net Gain in New Zealand
By Alithea Johns – Skopos Design

What is biodiversity net gain?
And simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint in your garden
Having moved from Europe to New Zealand recently I am always comparing the differences between environmental policies especially regarding property development. Being a Landscape Architect I am always striving to respect and add to nature in the development projects I work on.

In England it is now mandatory for all property developments to have a net gain in biodiversity in the completed project. Mandating biodiversity net gain could ensure that new development enhances the environment, contributes to our ecological networks, and conserves our precious landscapes.

Biodiversity relates to a wide range of plant and animal species cohabiting in a particular region. Like the term implies,” bio‑diversity” refers to the diversity of life in an area, ecosystem, or habitat.
It is integral to our environment, wellbeing, and economy. So, with housing demand greater than ever before, boosting and improving biodiversity has become an essential aspect of sustainable development.
(Image: Berkeley Group development project with biodiversity net gain in the UK)

Many of the hidden environmental costs of development (such as biodiversity loss, carbon emissions, unsustainable water use, and worsening air quality) are not considered systematically, with no mechanisms to compensate for the harm to nature, communities, and future generations. Nor are the benefits of creating greener developments properly understood.

Net gain approaches could help to redress the balance and provide clear mechanisms and opportunities for developers to leave a positive legacy of environmental enhancement.

(Image: Auckland housing sprawl)
In New Zealand, the Department of Conservation’s Biodiversity in Aotearoa report, released in August, noted that of 976 freshwater species assessed 14 per cent were ranked ‘threatened’ and 17 per cent ‘at risk’.

New Zealand is one of the largest emitters per capita for carbon in the world, 4000 of our native species are endangered. And our entire marine environment is under threat with less than 1 per cent of our oceans protected. 

We cannot keep trying to squeeze nature into smaller and smaller spaces or demand that wildlife fits in with our plans.

Recently the following news articles highlighted the housing development boom that is about to happen, but sadly with no emphasis of biodiversity net gain:

"New Zealand has a serious housing shortage and has simply not built enough homes to meet the needs of New Zealanders.”  19 October 2021 RNZ news

“New Zealand’s cities could be reshaped for decades to come, after the government joined forces with the opposition to announce sweeping bipartisan housing legislation that aims to counter urban sprawl and boost supply by up to 105,000 new homes in the next eight years.” Guardian newspaper
What can we do to help this in New Zealand?
How can we improve biodiversity in our Urban Landscapes and Gardens?

1. Make Use of a Native Plant Palette.
Native plants are well adapted to local conditions and provide a low maintenance, drought resistant garden and can prevent local flooding. Attract “good” insects by planting pollen and nectar plants.

2. Provide Wildlife Pathways and Links Between Green Spaces.
One of the things essential to improve biodiversity in urban areas is provision for wildlife to travel and search for food, water, and mates.

3. Spread the word about Biodiversity Net Gain and push the Government to adopt this  environmental planning policy for new developments.

4. Pay Attention to Non-Native Predators.
Non-Native predators are highly dangerous to local wildlife, mainly because they are usually overlooked and not paid attention to. Domesticcats alone have been discovered to be responsible for 19 million bird deaths annually in NZ.  Keep your cat indoors or in an enclosed garden area. Rent possum traps.

5. Go no mow in an area of your garden.
Perfect (weed free, clipped, green) lawns look good, but are they good for the environment? More homeowners are thinking about pollinators in their gardens as well as environmental sustainability and are re-thinking their lawns.
6. Avoid digging the soil.
This may seem an unusual one for gardeners, but digging the soil is bad for the planet. Our soils hold huge amounts of carbon dioxide - by digging them we expose soil to the air and release CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Improve soil and suppress weeds instead by using mulches and weeding by hand. Keep that carbon below the surface!

There are so many ways we can improve our landscaping - here are a few more methods:

7. Plant trees and shrubs.

8. Make compost.

9. Use hand tools. 

10. Grow plants from seed.

11. Grow your own food.

12. Make your own mulch.

13. Use peat-free compost

14. Make your own fertiliser from nettles or comfrey

15. Reuse and recycle soil and pots

Black Pine's Carbon Measure
To publicly hold ourselves accountable (and help maintain a focus on doing better), we include our office's monthly carbon reading with every newsletter.

In the process of carrying out our business in the month of October, we were responsible for contributing
0.02 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions to the atmosphere.
(That’s roughly equivalent to the amount of CO2 that 1 native tree would sequester in 10 years*)

The graphs below indicate the office's cumulative carbon emissions and monthly usage respectively.
*Calculated using the New Zealand based Trees That Count calculator

Creating healthy environments is the highest priority for us and our clients, so we are continuously looking for the healthiest, toxin-free materials we can find.

This includes the materials used in our outdoor environments, as well as indoor.

Today we look at Macrocarpa - a type of softwood that is widely used in New Zealand, particularly for its natural durability - not needing any chemical treatment.

Click on the link below to read further in our dedicated article.

Imagine a building that is as efficient as a flower; a simple symbol for the ideal built environment.
The Living Building Challenge is organized into seven performance areas, or Petals.
In our newsletters, different items are identified with the relevant Petal, helping to place it in context.

From Tara, Duncan, Akshaya and Emma
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