Protected natural areas within the rural area

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Number of and extent (hectares) of protected natural areas within the rural area


Purpose of indicator

A protected natural area (PNA) is a defined area of land that has legal status to protect indigenous vegetation, habitat, ecosystem or species. In the rural area PNA contribute to its natural character and indigenous biodiversity. Monitoring their number and extent helps to understand whether more areas are being protected or lost over time.

Current information and trend

In 2011 there were a total of 189 protected natural areas in the rural area, an increase of 29 PNA since 2006. Despite an increase in the number of PNA, there was a loss of extent (3096 ha). The ‘loss’ is due to various factors including a reclassification and rationalisation of PNA by Department of Conservation and the return of lake beds to Te Arawa under the Te Arawa Lakes Settlement Act 2006. In total PNA covered around 30,656 ha in 2011, down from 34,053 ha in 2006. Figure 1 shows PNA in 2006 and 2011 (note: the Lakes A Zone is included in the rural area).

For public land the Reserves Act and Conservation Act are the most commonly used legislation for protection of indigenous vegetation and habitat, while Queen Elizabeth II covenants are most common for private land and Kawenata for Maori owned land. Table 1 below shows the number of PNA within the rural area protected under each legislation.

Table of Number of PNA protected under legislation
Table 1.  Number of PNA protected under legislation
Map of Rural Protected Natural Areas 
Figure 1. 2006-2011 Differences: Rural Protected Natural Areas
Within the rural area there are 126 identified significant natural areas (SNA). SNA have significant indigenous vegetation or habitat and may or may not already be formally protected. Like PNA, SNA contribute to biodiversity and habitat for indigenous species. Formal protection of these areas would help ensure they are not lost.

The proposed National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity (under the Resource Management Act 1991) aims to halt the loss of areas of indigenous biodiversity that have been identified as significant natural areas. Should the proposed policy statement become operative as it is drafted more SNA are likely to be formally protected.


In summary

  • In 2011 there were 189 protected natural areas within the rural area, with a total area of around 30,656 ha
  • The most common protection mechanisms for PNA within the rural area are the Reserves Act 1977 and Conservation Act 1987
  • There are 126 significant natural areas within the rural area
Further information sources
Ministry for the Environment on the Proposed National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity

Page reviewed: 03 Jul 2019 10:11am