The State of our Birds

Thanks to funding allocated in October 2018 by the Great Barrier Local Board, volunteers of our Trust will over the next year prepare an ‘Environment Aotea - State of our Birds 2019’ report. This document will update the information on land and sea birds contained in the Great Barrier Island State of the Environment Report 2010. The new report will be published both in hardcopy as well as online, but as a more accessible ‘interactive’ version.

More regular theme-based updates are being adopted in environmental reporting in New Zealand, as well as internationally. The proposed ‘State of our Birds’ report would be the first (‘pilot’) in what the Trust envisages could be a series of theme-based, Aotea-specific reports that focuses attention on the pressures on our taonga, trends in their status and interactions with other aspects of the environment, such as habitat extent and quality.

The 2010 report is the only document that authoritatively describes all aspects of the natural environment of Aotea and has proved to be a comprehensive reference for decisionmakers, researchers, and the community. When published, the Hauraki Gulf Forum noted “the significant contribution that this report makes to knowledge about the Great Barrier Island environment and its relevance to the Forum’s requirement to prepare state of the environment reports for the Gulf every three years.” ‘State of our Birds’ will update information on this visible aspect of Aotea’s biodiversity, pulling data from disparate sources into one authoritative resource. The report would provide a level of detail about our birds that is not currently available through existing national or regional reporting processes.

Key information to protect our birds

The project intends to provide an accessible, well researched and peer reviewed report on the state of Aotea’s birds, building on the information presented in the 2010 report. The report will be available in hard copy as well as digitally accessed content and will be designed to be accessed online in a user-friendly manner, with summary infographics (report cards) as well as more detailed reporting. In doing so, we will aim for the report to help increase community and local and central government awareness of the current state of Aotea’s birds, that allows fuller understanding of interactions within our environment, the positive and negative impacts of human activities over time, and some of the key challenges these species (and their habitats) face. We are also very keen to explore how existing community gathered data sets such as the backyard bird surveys and long-term bird counts (e.g. on dotterels) carried out by local residents and visitors can be effectively used and acknowledged in the report (as well as data sets collected by government agencies). We have selected birds for the first update as much of the conservation effort on the island is directed towards Aotea’s diverse avifauna.

Why is this important?

Increased understanding of the state of Aotea’s birds will lead to better decision making and increased community engagement in conservation efforts. The publication of the national state of the environment reports in the last few years has shown that good information, presented in an accessible manner does help to inform public opinion and government action. With one of the starkest examples being the recent reporting on the state of New Zealand’s waterways which highlighted an issue that had previously been ‘hidden’ in the scientific literature and facilitated action by many groups and interests to respond to the issue.

1. We envisage that the process to prepare the ‘State of our Birds’ report will involve members of the Aotea community, government agencies and local and central government as well as scientists and researchers in their specialist fields. As such, the process is planned to be highly collaborative, as we know that the data and information required to compile the report is in many different sources. Such collaboration allows opportunities for all participants to learn from each other – we could for example hold workshops on the island throughout the process, including to present the preliminary findings of the report.

2. We hope that the process and report will help to increase interest in research on Aotea’s biodiversity by those contributing and reviewing the report. Ongoing research interest and targeted environmental monitoring is essential to identify and prevent/arrest population declines in our birds.

3. Little detailed information is readily available on the current state of Aotea’s bird populations and where available, is spread across numerous agencies and organisations. The report will help to bridge the technical data and information in the growing scientific literature on the ecosystems of Aotea that this is not easily accessible to non-specialists. Accessible information is crucial that informs priority-setting for environmental initiatives and funding by relevant agencies and community groups, based on scientifically derived data and community values.