Conservation (New Zealand)

Where can I find information about conserving the natural environment in New Zealand?

Image: The Fiordland National Park.NZ by Bernard Spragg. NZ on Flickr.

Entry last updated: 13/01/21


Conservation is about preserving and protecting New Zealand's natural environment, wildlife and their habitats including marine reserves. This entry explores the various aspects of conservation, including examples of wildlife that need protection, information about native plants and animals, and New Zealand's unique biodiversity.

Wildlife that needs protection

Here is a list of some birds and animals in New Zealand that need protection and conservation. Some natives like the Huia and Moa are now extinct as a result of hunting or predators.

Blue Duck: These nationally vulnerable birds are found along fast flowing rivers in the North and South Islands.

Chatham Island Black Robin: This 10 cm high songbird has black plumage.

Hoiho: Slate grey in colour, this tall, heavy penguin has yellow feathers passing across the nape and around the eyes. It also has yellow eyes.

Kākā: Large parrot with brown and green feathers with brilliant bits of orange and purple under the wings.

Kākāpo: Heaviest parrot in the world, these birds are nocturnal and flightless.

Kiwi bird: This national icon is flightless and nocturnal and the only bird to have nostrils at the end of its very long beak.

Maui's dolphin: Subspecies of the Hector dolphin, these dolphins are the world's rarest marine dolphins

Saddleback: These mediums sized birds are named after the chestnut-coloured saddle across their back.

Takahē: Distantly related to the pūkeko, these flightless birds are blue and green in colour.

Tuatara: This small reptile resembling a lizard is a survivor from the dinosaur age.

White heron: This beautiful rare white bird has long, slender legs and a long, thin S-shaped neck.

The need for conservation

There hasn't always been a strong focus on the need to protect and preserve the native environment we have here in New Zealand. The Department of Conservation has been entrusted with the duty of conserving New Zealand’s natural and historic heritage.

Department of Conservation

The Conservation Act of 1987 helped establish the Department of Conservation (DOC for short). This act lists the roles and responsibilities of DOC. This involves building and supporting effective conservation partnerships in keeping with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

You can read all about the Act by:

  1. Going to About us.
  2. Scrolling down the page to select Our role.
  3. Then choose Legislation from the subheadings on the page.

This Act tells you how to define a conservation area, the key functions of DOC and the reason why it was created.

The Department of Conservation is a government website about preserving the natural and historical sites of New Zealand. You can see it’s a government site by looking at the About us or Contact links at the top of the page.

We recommend you explore some of the links from their home page. For example:

  • Parks & recreation will list the National Parks and Marine Reserves where wildlife and nature are protected.
  • Nature will help you identify the Pests and Threats of our country and understand how the conservation status of our species is assessed.
  • Get involved has conservation activities and education resources at various levels.
  • Our work is about the various natural restoration programmes DOC has been involved with over the years.

Also remember that DOC has a number of videos on Youtube. Type in the keywords ‘Department of Conservation NZ’ in the search box to view footage on various issues on conservation in New Zealand.

Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. Usually it’s better to leave out small words like ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘of’ and just choose the main ones, e.g [topic word]. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.

Forest & Bird

Forest & Bird is a non government and not for profit organisation that has been around since 1923.

  • The page Saving Our Environment has useful information on the threats to our various habitats and the work undertaken by this organisation to remedy the situation.
  • Have a look at some of their targeted campaigns highlighting a range of native species and natural resources on our land and in the rivers, lakes and ocean.
Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.

Native plants and animals

New Zealand has a unique environment that has evolved over millions of years. It has species of insects, birds, animals and flora that is not seen in any other part of the world. The websites below explore our environment and some different aspects of conservation.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

This is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

You will find a lot of information on conservation issues relating to New Zealand on Te Ara. For example:

  • From the home page scroll down the page to select The Bush.
  • Then click on Conservation.
  • Check out the stories on Kaitiakitanga - guardianship and conservation. The Māori believe there is a close relationship between humans and nature.

There are similar conservation stories to be found under the heading of Earth, Sea and Sky and Settled Landscape.


Conservation is at the heart of this urban eco sanctuary in Wellington. Project Zealandia has a vision to restore Wellington’s valley forest and freshwater ecosystem to its pre-human state.

  • Select Sanctuary to read about the species of birds, reptiles, frogs, insects and plants that have made Zealandia their home, or
  • scroll down to History to understand how our flora and fauna have evolved.

World Wildlife Fund (New Zealand)

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is one of the largest global organisations whose mission it is to conserve nature and wildlife. In New Zealand their priority is to look after marine animals especially those on the brink of extinction, eg Māui Dolphin.

  • You can find out more about this project by selecting Māui Dolphin from the home page.
  • Scroll down to the end of the page to Māui Dolphin Education Resources to cover an inquiry topic.

WWF-New Zealand is working on other projects in our country. You can access them all by exploring ‘What we do’ from the main page.

EPIC Resources

EPIC is a collection of reliable databases covering lots of different topics. It’s put together especially for New Zealand school students and helps to answer questions like this.

New Zealand Geographic Archive is a recommended database on New Zealand issues on conservation. For example use keywords like 'kiwi bird conservation' to bring up stories, videos and photos on this topic.

Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6 pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.


DigitalNZ is a search site that focuses on New Zealand history and brings together results from lots of different websites. It’s an easy way of searching online resources from New Zealand libraries, museums, universities and government sites all at once, and has lots of primary sources. The results are grouped by the type of information, like images, videos, newspapers, articles and research papers.

  • Try using some simple keywords like 'tuatara conservation'.
  • You will find some interesting images, videos, audios, articles etc to explore.


Habitats are the variety of physical areas where plants or animals live. Habitats can have different amounts or types of water, different temperatures, or be at higher or lower altitudes (height).

Department of Conservation (DOC)

This government website has the most reliable information on the different habitats in New Zealand.

  • Locate them by clicking on Nature from the home page and following the link on Habitats. This page covers 8 different environments in New Zealand.
  • Each page explains the kind of environment, its importance, the threats and the role of DOC.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is another reliable source that has related information on protected areas, national parks, and marine reserves which are a significantly important to conservation of our ecosystems. Explore these themes from Sections on the home page.

Maritime New Zealand

This government organisation is responsible for safety, security and environment protection of New Zealand's coastal and inland waterways.

  • Select Environment under Public Info to read the laws in place to regulate exploration of natural resources
  • The Information for Schools page has some useful data on maritime and marine environments and their protection. Safety and Maritime History are also worth exploring.
Tips: Maritime New Zealand is government website. The information here is reliable and trustworthy.


Biodiversity very simply means the variety of plant and animals life in a particular habitat, environment or in the world. The biodiversity of New Zealand would include our native biodiversity of plants and animals in a particular environment - for example our native bush.

Tips: Not sure what a word means? Try using Google as a dictionary. The trick is to type the word define in front of the word you want to define, then click Search. For example if you wanted to define the word biodiversity, your search would be 'define biodiversity'. This searches for all the meanings on the web that define your word.

Ministry for the Environment (MFE)

The Ministry for the Environment is responsible for providing national guidance and policy about the environment in New Zealand.

  • The MFE has a page on Biodiversity on its website. You can find this page under the tab called More on the home page.
  • The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary is the most pristine and largest protected ocean environment. Find this page under Marine on the main page of this government website.

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)

Increasing sustainable use of our resources and protecting New Zealand from biological risks are two roles of this government organisation that are conservation related.

  • Scroll down the page and select Biosecurity 2025 .
  • This system ensures that the delicate biodiversity of our ecosystems is protected.
Tips: New Zealand Ministry for Environment and Ministry for Primary Industries are both government websites. You can tell by the .govt in their address or by looking at their About us or Contact pages. You can be sure that the information here is reliable and trustworthy.


There are some great books about the conservation in New Zealand - check out your local public or school library to see what they have. Some recommended titles are:

SCIS no: 1832684 

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