Tiritiri Matangi: a perfect fit for United Nations environment programme

Author: Mel Galbraith (From the Dawn Chorus Archives, 130 August 2022)Date: August 2022

Ecological restoration on Tiritiri was well ahead of its time. It has taken initiatives such as the sanctuary to
encourage a global declaration that is now being internationally recognised, explains Mel Galbraith.

Twelve hours after we collectively chorused Auld Lang Syne to welcome in the 1st January 2021, the United Nations launched a “Decade on Ecosystem Restoration” 2021-2030. Not that you would have noticed; there were no fanfares and I doubt if any of the local firework displays were in recognition of this cause. No doubt the global pandemic was occupying the headlines at the time. And, even as we edge back towards a new more stable “norm”, it is still unlikely that the UN initiative will demand much media recognition. Such is the nature of (positive) environmental news.

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 explicitly calls for … Preventing, halting and reversing the degradation of ecosystems worldwide: “The over-arching vision for the UN Decade is a world where – for the health and wellbeing of all life on Earth and that of future generations – the relationship between humans and nature has been restored, where the area of healthy ecosystems is increasing, and where ecosystem loss, fragmentation and degradation has been ended.”
– https://www.decadeonrestoration.org/

Tiritiri Matangi fits into the United Nations Decade vision perfectly. We often refer to the restoration project on Tiritiri Matangi as “cutting edge”. While it is true that ecological restoration is now relatively commonplace in New Zealand, with a multitude of projects nationwide, at the inception of the Tiritiri Matangi project such action was novel and, to some degree, controversial. It was an invitation for public to contribute to conservation on Crown land, and definitely tested the boundaries of the day of what was acceptable for public to do on Crown land. It also started to raise volunteers’ expectations of how their contributions could address environmental degradation.

The formal discipline of restoration ecology (the science) had its birth in the USA in the 1950s. Even so, the Tiritiri Matangi project was getting underway around the same time as the establishment of the first scientific journal for the science (Ecological Restoration – 1981) but, perhaps more importantly, well before the appearance of the Society for Ecological Restoration International (SER, 1988). The Island’s restoration story over almost four decades is known throughout New Zealand, and generates international interest for the extent of community participation in the restoration.

The Tiritiri Matangi project is a celebration of the collective foresight of many players that promoted and supported the restoration and public participation, and is thus worthy of being an exemplar for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. You will note that we have ‘personalised’ the UN logo – this is encouraged by the UN to demonstrate a unique connection with the UN vision. We will be using it for the remainder of the decade to demonstrate this connection, and to remind everyone of the significance of the Tiritiri Matangi restoration project.

Above: The UN logo for Tiritiri Matangi has been ‘personalised’ for the Island. This is encouraged by the UN organisation to demonstrate a unique connection with the UN vision.