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Natural Heritage biodiversity project

Image - Judy van RossemPeople are very passionate about their area and the biodiversity. I am always inspired to see people giving up so much of their time. A lot of it is hard work. Tramping up steep hills, clearing pests from traps, working in the rain and wind, getting wet and muddy.

We have about 200 groups in our database that we have worked with. These groups can be as big as 10 or 12 to hundreds of volunteers.

We help them in a range of ways, from funding to advice. We are one of the few organisations that fund coordinators and organisation time – they really appreciate that. A big thing for them is fundraising. We do try to make it easier for them, point them in the right direction.

We have three contestable funds as part of the Natural Heritage Protection Partnership Programme. The funds are aimed at encouraging good management of the biodiversity and conservation of our natural heritage.

Every property in the region pays $5.80 in a targeted rate that goes into contestable funds. That generates $1 million to $1.5 million a year. I like to think of it as everyone in the region is paying a little bit more than the price of a cup of coffee and that is going to a range of really, really good community-based biodiversity and conservation projects.

We help pay for the coordinators of the Waikato Biodiversity Forum, along with four district councils and DOC. One of the roles of the forum is to help community groups to apply for funding.

My job is a good mix of office and field work. I visit the projects and community groups to see what they are doing, see that the spending of the grants is appropriate, and put them in touch with others who can help.

Our biodiversity responsibility is around private land. Often, private land is between conservation estates. We need to protect this land and have corridors for lizards and birds to move safely.

The number of community groups is growing. Councils like us realise we can’t do all the work ourselves, and nor can community groups. We need to help each other. It’s a move from being a purely regulatory council to enabling and supporting communities to do the work.