Kiwi, kakapo, Maui dolphin - and even the great white shark - feature on a list of 150 New Zealand species "prioritised" in an ambitious conservation strategy launched by the government this morning.

The Department of Conservation's new Threatened Species Strategy hinges greatly on already-announced moves under the Predator Free New Zealand (PFNZ) plan to purge the country of pest predators by 2050.

It carries lofty goals of clearing predators such as stoats, possums and rats off a million more hectares of land, while protecting 40 per cent more species, within less than a decade.

Other big PFNZ targets for 2025 would wipe out predators on all of New Zealand's island nature reserves, show that the same can be done across at least 20,000ha of mainland without the use of fences, and come up with a game-changing "science solution" capable of eradicating at least one small mammal predator from the mainland.


By 2025, DoC would be managing 500 species for protection and 600 by 2030.

The strategy, launched at a threatened species summit at Wellington's Te Papa, also features a hit list of 150 birds, plants, mammals, invertebrates, fish and lizards to bring back from the brink.

They range from kiwi, kakapo and Maui dolphin, to lesser-known species such as King Island turret snail, Bubblegum coral and the New Zealand fish-guts plant.

Also making the list are Archey's frog, long-tailed bat, longfin eel, giant kokopu, yellow-eyed penguin, Bryde's whale, kea, whio, tuatara, New Zealand sea lion, large land snail - and the great white shark.

The list was developed by identifying 50 species that were "notable" to New Zealanders and which are alraedy being managed. Then 100 more were picked using scientific criteria to represent the diversity of species that DoC worked on.

Today, more than 3000 native species are classified as "threatened" or "at risk".

About 800 of these are classified as threatened and face the risk of extinction. The remaining at-risk species could decline through slight changes in conditions.

Haast tokoeka have a conservation status of
Haast tokoeka have a conservation status of "nationally critical". Photo / File

The number of at-risk species is expected to rise as more information comes to hand and the status of some groups is reassessed.

Knowledge gaps remain a significant challenge for conservationists, who still did not know enough about some threatened species to assess their risk of extinction.

Of the roughly 13,000 species assessed, about 3000 could not be given a conservation status because of a lack of information about their population size or trend, and some would be reclassified as at-risk or threatened as knowledge improved.

There were also at least 300 threatened species that DoC could not manage simply because scientists did not know enough about them to decide the appropriate course of action.

New Zealand boasts a huge rate of biological endemism: about 80 per cent of our invertebrates, 70 per cent of our birds, 84 per cent of our freshwater fish and 80 per cent of our trees, ferns and flowering plants are ours alone.

But for many species, conservation action has come too late: At least 76 bird species, at least three lizards, one freshwater fish, four plants and an unknown number of invertebrate species have vanished in the 750 years since humans arrived in the country.

The use of 1080 poison, being refined to thin sowing rates and methods, would remain a mainstay of DoC's efforts, as would genetic conservation management.

The Archey's frog, a critically endangered New Zealand species of frog. Photo / File
The Archey's frog, a critically endangered New Zealand species of frog. Photo / File

Other big goals under the DoC strategy would bring more Te Ao Maori (the Maori world view) and matauranga Maori (Maori knowledge) into species recovery programmes by 2025, and close data gaps through research work under the National Science Challenges.

The efforts would be supported by funding the government has already committed to the PFNZ cause: $28 million over four years and $7m for every year after, above the $70m annual spend on predator control.

The PFNZ initiative expected to raise $3 for every taxpayer dollar spent.

But ahead of today's summit, Forest and Bird called for an overhaul of key government economic development agencies and for a doubling of the DoC's budget to one per cent of the government's overall spend.

"DoC has been woefully underfunded to the point that it can't carry out the core conservation work required to prevent extinction of our native species," the group's chief executive Kevin Hague said.

"The Department needs a major boost of funds to protect the nearly 3000 threatened and at-risk species in its care."