Backyard Conservation: Desperate to get stuck in and get your hands dirty? Now’s your chance.

Department of Conservation —  31/03/2021

No doubt you are aware of the negative impact we humans have on nature. Equally, no doubt you want to do something about it. But where to start? Who to talk to? How to find out what’s going on in your neighbourhood? Well, help is at hand.

Auckland Council’s Tiaki Tāmaki Makaurau | Conservation Auckland website is here to help. Hugo Geddes, Project lead and Senior Bio Info Analyst at Auckland Council provides us with an overview of this exciting new tool.

Why are we doing this?

Approximately 25% (140,000ha) of Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland is covered in some form of indigenous vegetation.  Around 42% of that is found on private land – yes, your land – and the balance is made up from DOC, Council and other centrally managed spaces that we all enjoy. Combined, our fragmented landscape of remnant forest, scrub, wetland, saline and dune ecosystems create a complex network of habitats where Auckland’s rich biodiversity persists and, in some places, flourishes.  

Sand dune ecosystem featuring highly specialised, drought tolerant plant species in Union Bay, Karekare.
Jason Hosking

Auckland has the largest urban population in the country of around 1.6million (approximately 34% of the entire population of New Zealand) and is expected to increase to 2million by 2033. Urban residents need healthy homes to live in, food to eat, economic opportunity and recreational space to connect with their environment. However, these factors all have the potential to adversely affect our natural environment by reducing the quantity and quality of habitat. As Auckland grows, balancing these needs while protecting and restoring our natural environment is a real challenge.

Thankfully, there seems to be a real willingness from many Aucklanders to do what they can to protect what remains, while also adopting more sustainable practices. Along with the national Predator Free 2050 initiative and the Pest Free Auckland 2050 campaign, there has been a significant increase in conservation activity on both private and public land in our beautiful city. By designing the right type of tools that build capacity and capability into community organisations, and upskill individuals and encourage locals to lead conservation initiatives, we can work together more effectively to protect the green and blue spaces of our city and the species that live in them.  

How can we get connected?

In August 2020, we launched Tiaki Tāmaki Makaurau | Conservation Auckland, a conservation website portal that provides access to resources, information and data for communities, groups and individuals so they can get on with the mahi / work on the ground.

The website hosts six easy to understand sections:

Te mārama ki ngā tikanga tiaki taiao – Understanding conservation sets the scene, covering off the origins of our unique ecology, human impact on the whenua / land and why it is so important to protect and restore what remains.

The next section is Te whakahaumaru me te whakarauora i te taiao – Protect and restore our environment – a collection of ‘how to guides’.  For example, ‘A guide to backyard biodiversity’ has links through to information on managing pests, attracting lizards, insects and birds, and controlling weeds. This enables the user to get a good foundation before moving onto the more comprehensive resource library.

Resource Library webpage.
Auckland Council

The heart of the site is Whakaputunga tohutoro – The Resource library, where users can explore the more extensive library through 18 collections which includes everything from pest plant and animal control to climate action and sustainability. Alternatively, by entering keywords in the search field, users can search the entire library to find specific resources.    

Communities told us about the need for public awareness about areas of significant ecological value that need protection. So, Tirotiro haere i te whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau – Discover Tāmaki Makaurau is an exciting section where users learn about different ecosystems including dune, forest, wetland and even cliff ecosystems, as well as  biodiversity focus areas found within these.  On the page learn about your area, you can filter ecosystems and biodiversity focus areas by type and geographic area.

Pūriri forest ecosystems provide fruit and nectar for kererū and tūī, and where there are no predators, geckos, kākā, pekapeka (bats) and others make homes in the cavities of pūriri trees.
Jason Hosking

Providing this ecological information in map form was requested. So, we included Mahere tiaki Tāmaki Makaurau – A Conservation map.  The web map includes ecological and cultural values, threats and pressures, as well as on-the-ground conservation activity. It is hoped this improved visibility and ability to explore and query the data will streamline conservation planning with regional biodiversity strategies and encourage collaboration between neighbouring groups and initiatives.

Conservation map.
Auckland Council

The conservation directory in the  Whakauru mai – Get involved section has a  filtering function which enables users to explore who is active in their local area and connect with them via their website, Facebook or Instagram.

Alongside the conservation directory, you can also find an events and opportunities calendar that the community can advertise on. As we are interested in attracting others to get involved in conservation, the calendar allows for a wide range of environmentally themed events to be promoted.

Navigating large organisations such as Auckland Council or the Department of Conservation and finding the right person to talk to is a common pain point. To mitigate this, the site includes a smart contact us form that enables the user to get closer to the right person, first time.

With the user in mind, each page has a global search bar as well as a ‘usefulness’ feedback function. This too will help us to continually improve the tool for users.

Weiti River clean-up volunteers.
Jay Farnworth


It was essential this website acknowledged the contribution of knowledge and leadership tangata whenua bring to conservation in Aotearoa. We are fortunate to be able to engage with mana whenua via Auckland Council’s Kaitiaki Forum. The guidance we have received to date is immensely valued. While the site has a long way to go if it is to adequately embed Te Ao Maori and Mātauranga Māori into the site, Auckland Council is committed to continue to work with mana whenua to achieve this. 

North Island Brown kiwi.
Sabine Bernert

This first iteration of the site is testament to the experience of a large project team, including hundreds of organisations and individuals from across Aotearoa that have created digital conservation resources for use. Without these, sites like this would not be possible. Through Auckland Council’s close working relationship with the Department of Conservation and other conservation partners, we hope to keep the site responsive to the changing needs of the conservation community.

We hope that with Tiaki Tāmaki Makaurau you can get knee deep in conservation, no matter your interests, skills or schedule. Here, you can discover nature’s taonga / treasure, learn about the conservation mahi / work in your area, find volunteer opportunities, get tips for environmental protection in your own backyard and much more. Please explore and share Tiaki Tāmaki Makaurau | Conservation Auckland and remember to provide comments and suggestions via the feedback button found on each page.

“Toitū te marae a Tāne-Mahuta, Toitū te marae a Tangaroa, Toitū te tangata
If the land is well and the sea is well, the people will thrive.”

Love it, Restore it, Protect it

One response to Backyard Conservation: Desperate to get stuck in and get your hands dirty? Now’s your chance.


    Cool. We salute to volunteers who engages on such movements. To be part of conservation team, maybe someday I will engage on such.