A collaborative project lead by the Endangered Species Foundation and supported by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE), to co-design a user-friendly mechanism to increase urban backyard biodiversity in Aotearoa, has found that education and support are key to unlocking people’s biodiversity journey.
“Major issues to tackling our biodiversity crisis include a lack of accessible, digestible, actionable information,” says Cheryl Reynolds, Chief Executive of the Endangered Species Foundation.
“At a community level, we found there was information overwhelm surrounding environmental initiatives. Moving forward, we will be developing three major projects via a community-centred approach, to enhance knowledge and kaitiaki of our native species”.
The first phase of this project involved gathering viewpoints from a range of interested parties prior to piloting mobile Neighbourhood Nurseries in different test communities. During project workshops, interviews and engagements with the mobile Neighbourhood Nurseries, participants expressed a need for: • more accessible and practical information around biodiversity, • simple mechanisms to allow them to engage with being part of Aotearoa’s biodiversity solution, • flexibility in their level of participation, and • avenues for building further awareness of activities and initiatives in the sector.
Visitors to the Neighbourhood Nurseries were able to take away an eco-sourced, native plant, along with information about its biodiversity value, cultural context and care. Endangered Species Foundation Project Manager, Bex De Prospo, saw the Neighbourhood Nurseries as a great way to get meaningful feedback from communities on what could encourage them to protect and grow urban biodiversity.
“By converting a cargo bike into a mobile nursery with native seedlings, we were able to engage directly with community members to get a clear picture of what people know and want regarding biodiversity. We were amazed that around a third of people had never planted a native plant before, so there’s a significant opportunity to mobilise more people to look after Aotearoa’s native species.”
Following engagement with the mobile nurseries, visitors could give feedback via a web link and QR code to a survey. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and included comments such as:
“I care so immensely about planting natives to support Aotearoa’s pollinators and I’m so excited that this project is promoting that,” and, that it was a “fun way to get people in the know and involved with natives. [It] has increased my knowledge and appreciation of natives.”
The three projects arising from this research - ‘Growing kaitiakitanga’, ‘Consumer biodiversity certification’ and a new ‘Digital knowledge hub’ - aim to empower people to nurture our native plants and animals - at home, at school, on our marae and across Aotearoa – ultimately supporting nature, and supercharging our own human well-being.
“The projects will be developed by the Endangered Species Foundation in collaboration with key partners,” says Reynolds. “All three projects are interlinked and aim to provide access to biodiversity knowledge and tools, to increase affirmative action for our native species”.
Growing kaitiakitanga will engage with tangata whenua and key partners to further develop access solutions across marae, kura/schools and communities. This will be a collaborative effort to identify key values, define a suitable name, and develop delivery mechanisms such as mobile nurseries, seed banks, biodiversity kits, and educational support. Discussions are currently underway with various potential partners to ensure that the project builds on existing networks and national strategies, so that synergies are aligned and impacts amplified.
To enable more accessible and practical biodiversity information at the point of purchase, consumer biodiversity certification about each native plant or other biodiversity-related items will be created. Similar to the health star rating on food or the energy rating on appliances, this certification will provide a snapshot view of how a plant or product rates with respect to its biodiversity properties. Potential partners for this certification system include national, consumer-facing plant retailers and other national organisations.
A digital knowledge hub, for communities and the sector will enable people to access online, practical biodiversity information, including the status of species across Aotearoa, meaningful and easy-to-access knowledge and data, and the ability to measure the developments of projects nationally.
The Endangered Species Foundation would like to acknowledge the support of the Ministry for the Environment. Professors Yolanda van Heezik and Philip Seddon from the University of Otago have also been integral to this process from the start, and continue to be engaged with developments of a metric tool for measuring biodiversity.
You can keep an eye on the Endangered Species Foundation’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages for updates on the future of these projects and the continued work to bring biodiversity home for all New Zealanders.