Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Feather factor part of capital's value

According to new research, a trend is emerging in the capital where wildlife (A Tui is pictured) is being used to make property listings more attractive. Photo / Getty Images
According to new research, a trend is emerging in the capital where wildlife (A Tui is pictured) is being used to make property listings more attractive. Photo / Getty Images

"How does taking a bath among native bush and listening to the sound of tui, kaka, woodpigeon and morepork appeal?"

That's part of a real estate agent's sales pitch for a three-bedroom villa in the Wellington suburb of Northland, on the market to buyers who can offer something above $425,000.

According to new research, it's also part of a trend in the capital where wildlife is being used to make property listings more attractive.

Over two years, Victoria University researcher Dr Heidy Kikillus collected hundreds of TradeMe property listings in the Wellington area to build a picture of how the city's biodiversity was being used a selling tool.

Using key terms such as "tui", "kaka", "morepork", "bellbird" and "korimako", she gathered 666 listings, including 224 house sales, 266 rental advertisements and 176 flatmate wanted listings.

"I found that wildlife and the city's natural environment are being used as an incentive to get people to purchase property at certain locations across the capital."

Unsurprisingly, most of the advertisements using nature, wildlife and birds in their listings were for properties near the Zealandia wildlife sanctuary in Karori.

The trend was also strong in Ngaio, Khandallah and Tawa.

She said the research backed Wellington's reputation as a "biophilic city" - a concept where residents are "hard-wired" to surrounding nature.

"We've got a lot of great walks and mountain bike tracks, so it's one of those cities where we do have a lot of nature surrounding us."

Wellington City Council open space and parks manager Amber Bill said the research showed how urban biodiversity could provide various economic benefits to the city.

"Heidy's research shows how nature in the city holds much more potential for the capital beyond just tourism," she said.

"Money and economics are intrinsically tied to nature and by tapping into this notion we can hopefully work to take better advantage of this selling opportunity."

TradeMe was the sole site analysed to avoid recording duplicates of properties listed on multiple sites.

The data would be further analysed over the coming years, allowing researchers to see whether a comparison of property sales might show whether properties promoted with "natural" values were associated with higher financial return.

Figures back the case for more urban trees: ecologist

Dr Kikillus said her results were limited to the Wellington area, but the same trend might be true in other centres.

A TradeMe search of currently listed Auckland properties turned up more than 30 instances where "tui" was used, and a dozen referencing kereru.

Auckland University ecologist Dr Margaret Stanley believed biodiversity as a booster for property sales highlighted the often under-appreciated value of urban nature.

"There is lots of overseas research showing that the value to your property increases according to how close you have trees to it," she said.

"So I think while's it's not a surprising result, it's an important one for New Zealand, because we tend to under-estimate that: we think about location, location, location and indoor-outdoor flow, but we don't specifically think about the surrounding biodiversity."

This was especially crucial in Auckland, where tree cover was less than in other cities.

A recent study led by Dr Stanley showed poor protection was threatening urban tree cover in the Auckland isthmus, where cover had dwindled to just six per cent.

Much of it was on private land and little was protected.She expected Wellingtonians' interaction with nature was different to that of Aucklanders.

"Wellington, for example, has Zealandia in the centre of it and people are now very used to seeing quite rare and endangered birds in their backyards," she said.

"So they are connecting with that biodiversity probably more than Aucklanders are, I think."

Nature as a property feature

• "This modern four-bedroom split-level home enjoys a sanctuary-like ambience surrounded by native trees and birdlife while enjoying good afternoon sun." - The listing of a house in Nottingham St, Karori, asking for enquiries over $900,000.

• "This suburb is renowned for being a quiet location, it's bush and birdlife." - A listing for a two-bedroom home in Crofton Downs, Wellington

• "French doors open onto a sunny deck to enjoy the picturesque outlook and native bird song in complete privacy." - A listing for another home in Karori.

- NZ Herald

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