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Volume 79, 1951
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National Parks and Other Reserves for the Protection of the Plants
and Animals of New Zealand

Report by the Wild Life Committee

I. What should be protected:

1. The indigeneous plants and animals of New Zealand, other than those harmful to man. Among the latter are some predacious birds such as harriers, hawks and black-backed gulls, and one fruit-eating (also insect-eating) bird, the silver eye.

2. Examples of the plant formations of New Zealand. The present National Parks and bird sanctuaries cover, with one important exception, practically all the main plant formations. The exception is the kauri forest, of which no extensive area is included in any National Park. Forest and grassland protected for the purpose of preventing erosion serves the same purpose as National Parks in conserving plant formations.

3. Useful introduced animals. There are several kinds of imported seed-eating birds that should be protected until they become so numerous as to be harmful either to our crops or to native birds. Opossums and rabbits are at once harmful and useful. They need no protection other than to regulate the industries founded on them.

II. Plants and Animals at present protected by law:

1. “The Native Plants Protection Act, 1934,” provides for the protection of indigenous plants in public areas, not naming species. The Act does not apply to specimens collected for scientific or educational purposes. This Act is administered by the Lands and Survey Department.

2. “The Animals Protection and Game Act, 1921–22,” covers both imported and indigenous species. These are listed in three schedules (a) animals absolutely protected; (b) imported game; (d) native game (including the black swan). With regard to (b) and (c) the Act contains provisions enabling the Minister to declare open shooting seasons under licence for any or all of the species. The Act is administered by the Internal Affairs Department.

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3. National Parks.

[The section below cannot be correctly rendered as it contains complex formatting. See the image of the page for a more accurate rendering.]

Tongariro National Park 150,000
Egmont National Park 79,000
Peel Forest National Park 1,305
Abel Tasman National Park 37,600
Arthur Pass National Park 146,400
Additional area 150,000
Tasman National Park 97,800
Hooker Glacier National Park 38,000
Sounds National Park 2,407,000
Southern Alps (not yet named) 94,060
Total 3,201,165

4. There are many sanctuaries for the protection of the indigenous flora and fauna. Some, for instance, Little Barrier, Kapiti, and Resolution are of first importance.

5. Scenic Reserves are small areas of bush, but often they contain botanical and geological features of particular interest. Scenic Reserves gazetted number 1,230 of a total acreage of 922,760.

6. Public Domains, not primarily intended for the protection of the native plants they contain, total 827, of a total area of 80,084 acres. They are areas, however, which serve for the conservation of native plants.

7. Many large areas of forest and mountain tops are included in the reserves of the State Forest Service, but forests are liable to be cut over for their timber, as was done in a considerable portion of the Waipoua Kauri Forest.

III. Administration:

1. Controlling authorities. Boards constituted by Act of Parliament, with Commissioners of Crown Lands as Chairmen: Tongariro, Egmont, Peel Forest, Abel Tasman, Arthur Pass.

Land and Survey Department: Hooker Glacier, Sounds, Tasman, and Southern Alps National Parks, Kapiti Island Bird Sanctuary, Scenic Reserves, Domains.

Internal Affairs Department: The controlling authority of all sanctuaries directly constituted under the Animals Protection and Game Act. It is not, however, the controlling authority of any area in respect of ownership except the sanctuary at Pouto Point.

Marine Department: This department controls the lighthouse reserves, into which no one is admitted except by permission of the Department. Several of these reserves are islands containing native plants and animals practically untouched by settlement. Among these are Poor Knights Island, Cuvier Island, Moko Hinau Group, Hen and Chickens, and The Brothers. Stephen Island, partly farmed, contains tuataras and sea birds. Farewell Spit, also partly farmed, is the breeding place of several species of gulls and terns.

Tourist Department: Little Barrier Island Bird Sanctuary, Resolution Island Bird Sanctuary.

2. Importation of plants is controlled by the Department of Agriculture, and of animals by the Internal Affairs Department.

Plants are examined on importation mainly for the purpose of detecting harmful insects and fungal diseases. Large numbers of plant species have come in by accidental means and have established themselves. Several kinds have been carried into forest areas and even to mountain tops by mammals and birds, thus altering the composition of the native vegetation.

Very few kinds of animals are imported for liberation. Usually only birds suitable for sport are allowed to be released. Mammals imported in the past have done an enormous amount of damage to the native forests. Deer, pigs, goats, chamois and opossums are the chief destructive mammals now well established in New Zealand forests and grasslands.

3. The control of harmful animals, other than rabbits, is undertaken by the Internal Affairs Department, which constantly has parties in the field, and in limited areas has exterminated the species concerned, for instance, goats on the Three Kings Islands and pigs on the Poor Knights. Royalties are paid for the killing of harriers, keas, little owls, hedgehogs, stoats, polecats, and ferrets.

The control of rabbits is in the hands of Rabbit Boards, the Department of Agriculture administering the Rabbit Nuisance Act.

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The taking of opossums is under control of the Internal Affairs Department. In the case of rabbits and opossums there is a conflict of interests, as both animals form the bases of industries.

Unprotected species of indigenous birds are the harrier, bush hawk, mutton bird, black-backed gull, skua, several species of shags, and the silver eye.

Most introduced species of birds are unprotected by law. Of those protected, the Australian magpie is in part harmful.

4. The taking of protected animals is controlled by the Internal Affairs Department. Permits are sparingly given for the taking of protected birds and mammals for scientific and educational purposes, chiefly for museums, universities and the Government.

The taking of seals is controlled by the Marine Department. Prior to 1946 no permits had been issued for twenty-two years, but in that year permits were granted, and, unfortunately, over 6,000 fur seals were killed, regardless of sex or age.

Permits to take tuataras are granted only for special reasons, such as scientific study. In the past a few have been taken, by permission, for overseas museums or zoological gardens.

IV. Recommendation for further action:

From the above brief statement of the present position of National Parks and similar reserves, and the protection otherwise afforded to the indigenous plants and animals of New Zealand, it would appear that some further action is desirable. The Committee accordingly makes the following recommendations for the consideration of the Royal Society.

1. In selecting new areas for protection, especially those of considerable size, particular consideration should be given to the types of plant formation they contain. It should be the aim, in a general way, to protect in several localities each different kind of forest, scrub, grassland, mountain vegetation and swamp. At present, probably the main types of forest are covered, though not in a sufficient number of localities. The existing areas of kauri forest are, however, small, owing to the amount of timber cutting that has been done in the past. Waipoua, the best remaining kauri forest, is controlled by the State Forest Service, a Department that at any time may decide to cut timber in it, as in fact it has already done over a considerable portion. The Committee has, therefore, no hesitation in recommending that the Waipoua Kauri Forest, with an adequate surrounding belt of other forest or scrub, be absolutely protected.

There are still many forested areas and some outlying islands unsuitable for settlement that could be set aside as sanctuaries for plants and animals. All the subantarctic islands that are not as yet protected should at the earliest date be constituted a National Park. The most outstanding example of an island that should be a National Park, though more on account of its geological than its botanical features, is White Island, in the Bay of Plenty.

There is indeed an urgent necessity for a check-up regarding the protection of the plant formations of New Zealand.

2. No further importations of birds or mammals for releasing should be made without the fullest scientific investigation. Past experience has shown that every species that has become established has done some harm, if only to displace native species, while it is practically impossible to exterminate any kind of bird, mammal or insect that has run wild. All liberated animals very soon reach the remotest parts of New Zealand.

3. The present efforts to control deer, pigs, goats, chamois and their like should be intensified. It is especially important to reduce to the smallest numbers or, if possible, exterminate wapiti, red deer, chamois and tahr, as these animals are extensively altering the forests and grasslands in the National Parks and thus defeating the objects for which these areas were set aside.

4. Finally, the Committee repeats the recommendation it made in 1945 that there be set up a National Wild Life Council to include a representative of each of the departments of Agriculture, Forestry, Public Works (soil conservation and rivers control), Marine, Tourist, Internal Affairs, Scientific and Industrial Research, Acclimatisation Societies, the Royal Society of New Zealand, the University of New Zealand, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Council.

That the Council have the responsibility of considering all problems of wild life control and the preservation and development of the natural resources of

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the Dominion and its Dependencies; of determining the problems requiring investigation, and preparing and administering a co-ordinated research plan; and of formulating a national natural resources and wild life control policy.

W. R. B. Oliver

Convener Wild Life Committee of the
Royal Society of New Zealand

In the discussion which followed, Dr. Archey moved: “That the report be sent to Departments concerned and that each section dealt with be sent to its appropriate Minister.”

This was carried.

Dr. Miller, in speaking to Section II, stated that lack of organization was responsible for the lack of control of the wasp and the white butterfly.

On the motion of Dr. Frankel, seconded by Dr. Archey, it was resolved that Section IV be emphasized in the report and represented to the Prime Minister.

It was finally resolved, on the motion of Dr. Oliver, that the report as amended be adopted.