Thursday 26 September 2013 4:44pm
It’s time to change the way New Zealanders do conservation says the ‘Tahi Group of Concerned Scientists’.
They are a new ginger group who first got together last September at Tahi Estate, a privately funded coastal restoration and ecotourism project near Whangarei. They point to ongoing declines in biodiversity and insufficient spending for ecological restoration as signs that New Zealand’s preservationist paradigm of conservation is failing.
“As a society we are living well beyond our economic means and the production capacity of our land and waterways. That’s an old message. But the Tahi Group’s fresh approach is that it wants us to drop the war talk and make friends of old enemies” says group member Professor Henrik Moller.
“We can learn so much from Māori and Pākehā, from business and community groups, from farmers and from ordinary citizen scientists. Most of them want to help, but they are seldom asked” says Henrik.
Worse, they are often mistrusted and misrepresented by preservationists. Farmers are a case in point: Often they start a conversation with our ARGOS (now New Zealand Sustainability Dashboard) researchers by saying “I’m not a greenie, but …”, and then they go to share a personal commitment to land care. Why do we write them off and denigrate them in the media rather than inviting them around the table to hear how we can help each other and our shared place.
“We say it’s just fine to engage in conservation for selfish reasons - to want rewards for good environmental behavior. Where do we get this heavy moral trip that real conservation is about ultruism and the unborn generations. Yes, they are important ingredients for some conservationists, but I am into it for me and right now” says Henrik.
The Tahi Group of Concerned Scientists, made up of Prof Henrik Moller, Prof John Craig, Prof David Norton, Dr Denis Saunders and Dr Morgan Williams were recently featured in an Otago Daily Times article.