New programme launched to boost backyard diversity

Endangered Species Foundation met in Wellington this week with Ministry for the Environment and University of Otago to launch Gardenstar, a new backyard biodiversity initiative aimed at radically supporting the growth of native habitats around New Zealand.

Project Manager, Bex De Prospo of Te Whiringa Hau-Rongo – Gardenstar, says this innovative programme intends to increase the biodiversity of urban gardens to nurture native species, and New Zealanders.

“With more than 7,500 species at risk of extinction in Aotearoa, we are facing a biodiversity crisis. By bringing biodiversity home with Gardenstar, we aim to maximise growth in native habitats, while also enhancing human wellbeing and providing greater opportunities for daily connection with nature,” says Bex.

Te Whiringa Hau-Rongo – Gardenstar is a metric tool which can measure the biodiversity and sustainability of gardens anywhere in Aotearoa, encouraging growth in our native ngahere by increasing planting and knowledge of the taonga that is our natural environment. Modelled on the Homestar concept for residential property, Gardenstar provides a biodiversity rating for users, enabling them to see how they are tracking on their property and where they have room to improve.

“Gardens make up more than a third of urban space in Aotearoa. This is a huge untapped resource of potentially biodiverse sites where rare endangered species could grow and thrive... We know that many New Zealanders care about rejuvenating habitats and creating more food and shelter for our native species but aren’t sure how they can help; this means there is huge potential to massively expand the native plantings in our urban environments,” says Bex.

The aim of Gardenstar is to provide an easy and tangible way for people to help our endemic birds, skinks and insects by measuring and planting native species in backyards or shared community spaces, with the added benefit of providing positive impacts on individual and community wellbeing. Developed by Endangered Species Foundation, Ministry for the Environment and University of Otago, Gardenstar will be supported by partners who can enable action on the ground, including Te Atiawa, Department of Conservation, Trees that Count, Predator Free Wellington and Para Kore.

Moving forward, Gardenstar will work with local communities to co-design future solutions.

“We have this really robust metric tool from our partners at University of Otago. The job now is finding out how we can get Kiwis to put it to best use. Our hui in Wellington this week marked the beginning of Gardenstar’s codesign phase, where we’ll be working closely with groups and individuals to learn what their biodiversity incentives and barriers are, and how they could incorporate Gardenstar into their lives. Fundamentally we will be asking: how can we, as the people of Aotearoa, nurture native species from within our own backyards, our schools, our marae and our own communities? And how can we better support and connect to nature for our own human wellbeing?”, says Bex.

If you or your organisation are interested in participating in the next steps of Te Whiringa Hau-Rongo - Gardenstar through collaborations, funding and action on the ground, please contact

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Photo credits:

Aneta Foubikova

Werner Sevenster

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