The Waikato region is home to a diverse collection of native plants and animals. People have cleared much of the region’s forests in the last 160 years. Introduced pests, stock grazing and habitat loss continue to threaten native plants and animals. Waikato Regional Council is helping to protect our natural areas.
In this section you can find out about the region’s native plants and animals that live on land.
On this page: native plants and animals are important; what lives in our region?; pressures on our plants and animals; protecting our plants and animals; more information.
Native plants and animals are important
The Waikato region’s natural ecosystems are very valuable. They filter out contaminants, providing us with clean air and water. The plants capture the sun’s energy, forming the basis of most food webs. They also provide erosion, flood and climate control, and recycle nutrients.
Native plants and animals are valued for their:
- unique genetic diversity
- cultural and spiritual importance
- scientific interest
- recreational opportunities
- intrinsic values.
New Zealand is known internationally for its unusual plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Both of our bats, all four native frogs, all of our reptiles, and over 80 per cent of our native plants and insects are unique to New Zealand. But our plants and animals are also uniquely threatened. Many of our birds and insects are flightless, and (like many of our plants) are defenceless against introduced species like possums, stoats and rats. Since humans arrived in New Zealand at least 45 species of birds have become extinct.
What lives in our region?
Our region contains a diverse range of native plants and animals. In the Waikato region we have:
- more than 900 native plants
- 124 native bird species
- 19 reptiles (including geckos, skinks and tuatara)
- two species of native bats
- two native frogs.
At least 100 species of these native plants and animals are threatened with extinction (including all of the bats and frogs and 30 per cent of the birds). Find out more about our region’s native species.
Pressures on our plants and animals
People have made enormous changes to land in the Waikato region over the last 160 years. In 1840, nearly all of the region was covered in native vegetation. Today, only 26 per cent of the native vegetation remains. Find out more about forest fragments and scrub in our region.
See our indicator which monitors changes in the amount of native vegetation on land in the Waikato region.
Since 1840, changing land use (clearing bush, draining wetlands, subdividing land and building roads and settlements) has had the biggest impact on native plants and animals. Our region's remaining native forest has been fragmented into thousands of patches. A few of these areas are very large (for instance, a 94,000 ha patch of native forest in the Coromandel Ranges). However, about 90 per cent of our remaining native forest fragments are smaller than 25 ha.
Now the rate of habitat loss due to land use change has slowed, and the harvesting of native timber is controlled to sustainable levels by the Forest Amendment Act 1993.
In the Waikato region today, the biggest threat facing native plants and animals is introduced plants and animals (both pests and domestic animals). Almost 75 per cent of our remaining native forest is susceptible to damage from possums. Forests that are not protected from stock continue to deteriorate under grazing pressure.
Other threats include:
- wild fire
- local climatic effects (for example drought, flood, cyclone and landslide)
- global climate change.
Loss of animals that provide vital services, for example, seed-dispersal by kereru (wood pigeon) and pollination by short-tailed bats, bellbirds and skinks, may slow or prevent forest recovery.
Find out more about habitat loss and other threats to native plants and animals.
Protecting our plants and animals
- About half of the region’s remaining native vegetation is legally protected. Many land owners have legally protected native forest, scrub or wetland through Open Space Covenants with the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust.
- Waikato Regional Council and Department of Conservation possum control operations target ‘at risk’ areas of native forest.
- Many land owners carry out private pest control, fencing, and restoration. Check out our planting guides.
- Waikato Regional Council and district and city councils protect areas of native vegetation through education, regulation and funding support.
- Care groups are undertaking activities to enhance native biodiversity in the region.
- The Department of Conservation has active management programmes to protect threatened species in our region.
To find out about freshwater plants and animals check out Wetland Plants and Animals and What Lives in the Waikato River?.
Learn about coastal plants and animals in our region's coastal ecosystems.
To find out about introduced pests check out Plant and Animal Pests. You can also order our plant and animal pest factsheets and other information through our publications.
For policy information on native plants and animals check out our Regional Policy Statement.