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Ecosystems and Indigenous Biodiversity

Although small, our city is home to some special indigenous vegetation and habitats. You’ll find these primarily in and around our nationally significant Te Whanganui-ā-orotu (Ahuriri Estuary), as well as on some parts of the hills surrounding Napier.

Read the full technical report  Download this discussion document  Enviromental excellenceResilient Napier

Protecting indigenous vegetation enhances biodiversity and supports our wellbeing. An area high in biodiversity reflects a healthy environment that we can all enjoy. 

Council recognises that landowners and community groups are already doing great work to protect and enhance biodiversity in Napier. Now, we’d like to include provisions in the District Plan to support this work. We aim to protect some of the more significant areas of indigenous vegetation, with the understanding that unmanaged subdivision, earthworks and certain land uses on land containing indigenous vegetation can lead to damage, and loss of  biodiversity values. 

View SNA Maps

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  • The Draft National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity means that it is likely our government will require all councils to identify areas of indigenous vegetation within their district and introduce provisions to maintain them. These areas are called Significant Natural Areas (SNAs).
  • The job of the District Plan is to manage any adverse effects on SNAs. Where an SNA is in a degraded state, Council must promote its restoration.
  • Wetlands and areas that provide important connectivity functions are also required to be earmarked by Council for restoration and enhancement.

Moving Forward 

  • We have undertaken a Napier Significant Natural Areas Assessment - a ‘stocktake’ of our areas of indigenous vegetation. The assessment also identified areas for potential ecological restoration and the creation of ecological corridors so that our flora and fauna can flourish. Mapping of these areas can be viewed here: Significant Natural Areas  
  • The assessment showed that less than 6% of Napier’s land contains SNAs and that our SNAs are located at 14 separate sites. 
  • A further 18 sites, representing 0.2% of our land area, were assessed as being significant at a local scale.  We have called these areas LSNAs. 
  • We’re drafting District Plan provisions to manage, restore and enhance biodiversity.  We’re also considering adopting an aspirational goal for Napier of 10% indigenous biodiversity coverage, which would meet the minimum goal laid out for urban areas in the Draft National Policy Statement.
  • We’re investigating how we might provide incentives for landowners to encourage the planting and protection of these areas on private land.

The Resource Management Act (RMA) lists the protection of “areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna” as a matter of national importance. These areas are commonly known as Significant Natural Areas (SNAs) in District Plans. Although this is the first time Napier has completed an assessment of its indigenous biodiversity, a new National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity (currently in draft) will likely require that their identification by councils becomes mandatory.

Locally Significant Natural Areas (LSNAs) are natural areas that, while not nationally significant, hold importance at a local level. We’ve recognised that, given the Napier landscape currently lacks biodiversity, all areas of indigenous vegetation are an important natural asset. They are especially important within the context of the restoration and enhancement objectives in the Draft National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity.  If we protect our LSNAs, Napier can improve its biodiversity over time.

Council engaged the University of Waikato’s Environmental Research Institute to undertake a Napier Significant Natural Areas Assessment. This involved a mapping exercise, literature review and a field assessment.  The team had conversations with landowners, Council staff and conservation practitioners as part of their work.

Government reports tell us that despite progress in conservation management over the past 20 years, around 4000 native species are still under threat or at risk of extinction. Our indigenous ecosystems perform important roles in contributing to clean water, pollination and the movement and recycling of nutrients. Research also shows us that urban forests, like those at Dobell Reserve and Sturms Gully, provide opportunities for residents to regularly connect with nature, which can improve the quality of life for our community and lead to better health and wellbeing.

New Zealand’s urban centres don’t typically enjoy good indigenous biodiversity - and that’s true of Napier because of low indigenous vegetation cover. Unfortunately, if the threshold is less than 10%, there’s a high likelihood of biodiversity decline.

Council’s wish is to be proactive in the identification and preservation of indigenous biodiversity, so we are proposing to set ourselves an aspirational goal of achieving 10% indigenous vegetation. 

The Napier Significant Natural Areas Assessment identified a total SNA land area of 608ha which represents 5.75% of Napier’s total land area. Most of this – 93% - is Ahuriri Estuary wetland (salt marsh and salt meadow vegetation types).  SNAs on private land account for just 0.4% of our city area.

A restoration target of 10% would require natives to be planted on an additional 430ha of both private and public land. Council would need to actively support and encourage community biodiversity initiatives to achieve this.

Please tell us! We recognise that landowners often have in-depth knowledge of their own properties, and we also know there are many indigenous biodiversity experts within our community.  We welcome feedback and questions on the values identified in the Napier SNA assessment and mapping.

There may be some constraints on those whose properties have been identified as containing, or being a part of, an SNA. We’ll work with you to help protect our SNAs, as there may be resource consents required in order to address environmental effects on these areas. However please be aware it is very unlikely that you will need a resource consent to trim or prune vegetation if this is to

  • Remove broken, deadwood or diseased vegetation
  • Protect buildings and people
  • Protect infrastructure and utilities such as power lines
  • Enable conservation or recreation

As part of engagement on the Draft District Plan, we’d like your feedback on how best to manage the impact of land use on biodiversity in Napier.

There are a number of organisations and funds that landowners can access to assist with looking after biodiversity on their property.

Biodiversity Hawke's Bay

An organisation established to coordinate and promote biodiversity projects in Hawke’s Bay. You’ll find a wealth of information on biodiversity in Hawke’s Bay and details about funding available on their website 

Napier City Council

Community-based biodiversity projects may be eligible for funding through the Napier City Council Community Development Grant and the Keep Napier Beautiful Programme  


The Regional Council has a number of biodiversity related work programmes: 

For information on biodiversity ecosystem restoration prioritisation, please see:

Information on local pests animals and how to contact the pest advisory team can be found here:

Predator Free Organisations

Predator Free HB 

Predator Free Urban Hawkes Bay 

Department of Conservation

DoC has a range of programmes and information available on pests and threats to NZ’s biodiversity, including support of the Government’s “Predator Free 2050” target, an ambitious goal to rid New Zealand of damaging introduced predators. Visit their website for advice and more information on funding. 

For info on biodiversity ecosystem restoration prioritisation, please see:

We’re working with the community on a planning framework that will allow people to undertake reasonable use, maintenance and improvements to land containing SNAs while also protecting biodiversity values and encouraging native planting.

Our Draft District Plan, due out end of May 2021, will contain a chapter on Ecosystems and Indigenous Biodiversity. We’ll be taking your feedback from this consultation into account when formulating it.

We welcome suggestions as to how indigenous biodiversity should be managed through the District Plan to achieve healthy, self-sustaining ecosystems in Napier where biodiversity thrives.


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