Auckland's bold mission to rid itself of pest plants and predators within decades has been met with a groundswell of support from residents and community groups.
Three months after Auckland Council announced its goal of achieving a pest-free region by 2050 - an aspiration that extended past the Government's national plan, to also include weeds - hundreds of groups have joined the cause.
Less than a third of the Auckland region's 500,000ha area retained its original native vegetation cover.
More than half of that was on private land, meaning many of Auckland's most threatened species and ecosystems weren't managed by public rangers, but landowners and volunteer groups.
The council has moved to help fill this gap by offering advice, monitoring and funding to more than 400 community groups.
Only in the past year, the council estimated residents had put in some 270,000 hours of work into pest eradication and restoration work at an estimated dollar value of $7m.
Pest Free Auckland programme director Brett Butland said it was now likely the number of groups involved in the work was more than 900.
Further, attendance at council-arranged forums had doubled since the plan was announced.
"That's not indicating a 100 per cent increase in activity, but what it does show is that there has been a big shift in people giving up their time to come in and learn more about pest control and restoration."
Auckland councillor Penny Hulse said the plan's partnerships with community groups, the private sector, mana whenua, and the Department of Conservation, would be key to the success of the 2050 plan.
"The focus to begin with will be on our islands and peninsulas - places with defendable geographies - as well as open sanctuaries and corridors."
Hulse said the initial focus would be on gulf islands like Waiheke, Kawau and Rakitu, and peninsulas such as Kaipara, Kaipatiki, Awhitu, Okahukura, Te Atatu, Devonport, Whangaparaoa - places "with defendable geographies", she said.
Other priorities were improving existing sanctuaries like Waitakere, Shakespear, Tawharanui and Hunua, and ecological "corridors" like the southern and north-west wild-links, and that spanning from Waitakere to south Kaipara head.
With Auckland holding the reputation of the world's second most weediest city in the world, Butland acknowledged the 2050 goal presented a huge challenge - but one he felt could realistically be overcome.
"And if we don't set the aspiration, we will never get there."
While re-invasion, or pest predators and weeds creeping back into cleared areas, would likely throw up the biggest problem, Butland said coming innovation would boost efforts.
"It's fair to say that some of the methodologies we require are probably not up to the standard just yet, but in the next decade or so, we'll be there.
"But the technology is evolving very quickly ... and by setting the aspiration, it's already stimulating innovations to do things more efficiently."
Auckland's plan followed Wellington's move to become the world's first predator-free capital - a goal that involved eradicating some 10,000 possum, and countless stoats and rats.
Councils lobby group calls for new biodiversity authority
Meanwhile, councils lobby group Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) has called for a co-ordinated, nationwide approach to put a stop to species loss.
LGNZ recently put out a report on biodiversity management, pointing out five areas it argued would help halt biodiversity decline.
These included a need for strong leadership and clarity of roles and responsibilities across all players; agreement where efforts should be targeted locally, regionally and nationally; being able to measure progress; and new, fit-for-purpose guidelines and legislation.
That included a proposed "National Biodiversity Management Authority", comprising all major statutory and financial players, including local government and iwi.
While there was good work going on around the country to protect species, boosted by a swell in community conservation efforts, New Zealand still didn't have a clear game-plan for biodiversity protection, LGNZ regional sector chair Doug Leeder said.
"What are we trying to achieve, how will we work together to do this and what does success look like?
"Overall the legislative framework needs to provide for clear leadership of New Zealand's biodiversity management system and encourage the need for partnerships and collaboration between relevant parties."
Regional and unitary councils collectively spent more than $70m each year toward biodiversity protection, with much of the effort focused on active management and working with landowners.
If the country was to stop the ongoing loss of species, greater investment and a new approach would be needed, Leeder said.
"It is important to understand that in general terms the greatest threat now facing New Zealand's biodiversity are pests.
"This, along with working with communities and landowners on such activities as fencing native bush remnants and planting native trees, is where much more effort is needed.
"In general terms, more regulation and a one-size-fits-all approach will not work and is likely to undo much of the good work currently occurring by landowners and communities."
The report has been shared among LGNZ members.
"Relevant government agencies have been very supportive of the report's actions and are working with regional councils on how the actions might be implemented.
"It will be shared with ministers once roles are clear."