Pride of NZ: Taking stock of life in Noah's Ark

Human beings need to make space for Christchurch's 100,000 aquatic birds, says wildlife protector.

Park ranger Andrew Crossland says Christchurch's geographical location makes it a magnet for wildlife.
Park ranger Andrew Crossland says Christchurch's geographical location makes it a magnet for wildlife.

Environment category
Andrew Crossland says human beings need to move over "just a wee bit" and recognise that for thousands of years, 230 species of birds have thrived in Canterbury's wetlands.

Hundreds of earthquakes would have come and gone in that time and 100,000 aquatic birds remain.

He is one of 24 Christchurch City Council park rangers who began as a wet-behind-the-ears volunteer bird watcher 20 years ago, aged 14.

"I taught myself the trade from the Wildlife Service and began to monitor the wetland birds."

Now he's paid to protect our ark. Getting 100ha put under a conservation covenant is just one of many achievements.

"It was my bird data that won the argument that Travis Wetland should be conserved," he said.

"Ultimately the council purchased 130ha. Today we've got 18,000 pages of field notes. So Christchurch [has become] the best monitored bird life area in Australasia."

He is busy working out a policy to turn the city's red zone into a nature park. This involves managing domestic cats that have gone feral and coping with mustelids and rats.

"When we did the first biodiversity policy for the Government, we said Christchurch is Noah's Ark, we've got so many species so reliant on the city.

"But we don't want to create zoos. ... we want to copy Melbourne where native parrots are in the parks. We want wildlife to live in the city -- not in a fenced-off enclosure."

It can be exasperating trying to emphasise the annual migration of tens of thousands of birds through Christchurch from as far away as Asia and the Arctic Circle, but he's never given up the fight.

"We just need to move over a wee bit and make a bit of room to let these birds in to survive and prosper," he said. "Birds have a right to exist."

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- NZ Herald

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