Fiordland crested penguins
Image: Andrew Walmsley | ©


Summary of the Te Mana o te Taiao – The Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy.

When nature is in trouble, so are we

Papatūānuku (Earth mother), Ranginui (sky father) and their offspring are in serious trouble, and we urgently need to do a better job of looking after them. The state of nature is a legacy we leave for future generations.

Nature benefits our lives and society in a huge number of ways. Clean air and water, the food we farm, catch or hunt, and our tourism- and primary industry-based economy all depend on nature. We are connected with nature through our many different cultures and the places in which we live and spend our time, and nature is part of our identity.

Nature can only thrive when biodiversity thrives. Nature can better provide the benefits we rely on when environments are rich in biodiversity. Nature in Aotearoa New Zealand is unique in the world and makes a significant contribution to global biodiversity, with our country being internationally recognised as a biodiversity ‘hotspot’. Therefore, we have a duty of care to make sure that the unique animals, plants, fungi and microbes that are found here are healthy and thriving, and that natural resources are used sustainably.

But nature in Aotearoa New Zealand is in trouble. Biodiversity is declining in the face of pressures such as invasive species, land and sea use, direct exploitation of species, climate change, and pollution. And indirect pressures such as not having the right systems in place in terms of policy, legislation and leadership, not having enough knowledge or resources to act, and a disconnect between people and nature are causing and contributing to these direct pressures.

Biodiversity, or biological diversity, means the variability among living organisms from all sources, including land, marine and freshwater ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.

How can we help nature?

Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, we are already successfully taking action to protect and restore nature. We now have an opportunity to further invest in our successes and firmly place nature at the heart of all we do, which will benefit both nature and our livelihoods.

Te Mana o te Taiao sets out how we can expand and build on the strong foundation we have already laid to allow our natural world, and the people in it, to thrive.

Aotearoa New Zealand, along with the rest of the world, will be on a pathway to economic and social recovery for many years to come following the COVID-19 crisis. Recognising that nature is at the heart of our economy and the way we do business will be key to our successful recovery.

Protecting and restoring nature will have direct benefits for our economic wellbeing and prosperity. Our international brand and domestic tourism, and the health of our fisheries, forests and productive soils are all dependent on healthy nature and sustainable use.

Nature-based jobs can stimulate regional economies by providing labour-intensive, practical and meaningful work that will upskill people and deliver long-term economic benefits – including jobs, skills, mental and physical health, and training for future employment.

Restoring nature will also help us to address the current impacts of climate change and be more resilient to future impacts.

Te Mana o te Taiao explained

Te Mana o te Taiao sets a strategic direction for the protection, restoration and sustainable use of biodiversity, particularly indigenous biodiversity, in Aotearoa New Zealand.

As a national strategy, Te Mana o te Taiao provides the overall strategic direction for biodiversity in Aotearoa New Zealand for the next 30 years. It is closely connected to and guides local and regional biodiversity action.

Te Mana o Te Taiao will also provide strategic direction for sectors and groups to implement independently. For example, an industry body could align its environmental or biodiversity strategy to Te Mana o te Taiao, and community organisations could use both Te Mana o te Taiao and their regional strategies to guide their activities.

Te Mana o te Taiao has been designed for all of us who live in Aotearoa New Zealand to own and implement. There is a place for everyone to be involved, no matter how big or small their contribution. By working together towards common goals, we can achieve much more than we would alone.

It is important to recognise that while Te Mana o te Taiao provides us with a shared destination to head towards, we may experience different journeys along the way.

The causes of biodiversity loss vary from place to place, depending on the natural environment and how natural resources are being managed and used. Therefore, different solutions will be needed depending on the situation, location and context.

Although our collective actions as Aotearoa New Zealand will be contributing to the same vision and outcomes, the way in which this is achieved may look different across places and regions – and this will be one of the keys to our success.

The strategic framework for Te Mana o te Taiao sets out how the different components of the strategy work together to achieve the long-term vision of Te Mauri Hikahika o te Taiao.

Biodiversity in Aotearoa New Zealand – a companion report

To enable our country’s unique biodiversity and taonga (treasures) to be protected and restored, it is important for us to understand the state they are in, the trends that are occurring and the many pressures they face. All of these can be informed by the complementary perspectives, histories and world views of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) and science.

The companion report Biodiversity in Aotearoa provides the evidence base for Te Mana o te Taiao by summarising the present state, trends and pressures of Aotearoa New Zealand’s plants, animals and ecosystems on land, in fresh water and at sea.

Biodiversity in Aotearoa New Zealand (PDF, 5,940K)

Working together to achieve Te Mana o te Taiao

Together, we can achieve the vision Te Mauri Hikahika o te Taiao – the life force of nature is vibrant and vigorous.

Actions to address biodiversity loss need to involve everyone in the biodiversity system – whānau, hapū, iwi, Māori organisations, NGOs, central and local government, businesses, organisations, industry, and every individual. This will see people working alongside each other to actively manage threats to nature and taking proactive and positive measures to protect and restore nature.

Upholding the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi is an essential part of Te Mana o te Taiao. Working together in partnership towards a shared vision for nature will ensure that rangatira (chief) and kaitiaki (guardian) obligations, as well as mātauranga Māori, are actively protected.

Biodiversity is just one part of the environment, and the causes of biodiversity loss are multiple and complex. Many related pieces of work are being undertaken in biosecurity, urban planning, primary production, climate change planning, energy and resources, education, and many other areas. Te Mana o te Taiao will enable connections and collaboration across these.

A range of tools will be needed to support this collaborative approach, including systems for coordination, governance and funding, legislation and other regulatory tools, and support and incentives.

The He Awa Whiria approach

He Awa Whiria refers to braided rivers, which are made up of multiple interconnecting channels of water. The size and shape of a braided river is continually changing as these channels shift and the water finds new paths. 

Each river braid can be thought of as a unique world view, value or perspective. River braids can also represent the roles different people, groups and sectors play in biodiversity protection and restoration.

The He Awa Whiria approach can shine a light on the areas where the river braids meet – for example, joining mātauranga Māori with other scientific knowledge systems and ways of understanding the world to support actions and innovations that result in a thriving biodiversity.

We will use this approach to implement and understand Te Mana o te Taiao. This will allow us to be inclusive of all forms of knowledge and peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand, while ensuring that the Treaty partnership is honoured and mātauranga Māori is elevated to an equal standing with other forms of knowledge.

Implementing Te Mana o te Taiao

The release of Te Mana o te Taiao is just the first step towards finding better ways of working together to look after nature. A broad range of perspectives and expertise are needed to plan and implement the next steps, so iwi, hapū, whānau, central and local government, industry, science, NGOs and communities will be involved in this process.

As well as setting an aspiration and direction, a strategy also needs to set out a pathway for how the goals and objectives can be met and who will be working on them. The implementation plan and Te Mana o te Taiao together form the Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy.

The first implementation plan will focus on establishing the systems and processes needed to support the effective delivery of Te Mana o te Taiao, as well as making progress on those actions that can begin immediately. Implementation planning will run on a 5-year cycle from 2025 onwards for the life of the strategy.

Progress against the strategy and implementation plan will be regularly assessed and publicly reported on. Regular reviews will ensure that the strategy remains fresh, relevant and influential, and that we are measuring and accountable for our progress.

Te Mana o te Taiao will need to be implemented at national, regional and local levels. Those actions that need to be implemented nationally will often be led by agencies or national organisations. Much of the regional and local implementation will be led by regional strategies and implemented by those who know their region best – councils, iwi/hapū, landowners and users, communities, and local people on the ground.

The development of Te Mana o te Taiao was led by the Department of Conservation on behalf of Aotearoa New Zealand. It was built on the advice and ideas of Treaty partners, whānau, hapū, iwi, Māori organisations, communities, individuals, stakeholders, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), industry organisations, and central and local government – i.e. all those who will be vital to its success.

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