West Coast’s Denniston Plateau under microscope

 Conservation organisation Forest & Bird is shining a scientific spotlight on the West Coast’s Denniston Plateau on March 2-4 with a BioBlitz to search for new types of plants and animals there, as part of its proposal for a new Denniston Reserve.

About 150 scientists and volunteers will be searching areas on the Denniston Plateau for all the plants and animals living there during the two-day, night-and-day BioBlitz.

“Forest & Bird knows this is a special place – with its great spotted kiwi and unique land snails – and we’re keen to find what else makes this plateau a treasure house for New Zealand nature,” Forest & Bird Top of the South Field Officer Debs Martin says.

Forest & Bird is working to protect the conservation land on the Denniston Plateau from a large open-cast mine planned by Australian-owned Bathurst Resources. Forest & Bird and two other groups are appealing against a resource consent granted to Bathurst last year. The nature conservation group has proposed that the Denniston Plateau and adjoining publicly owned land be protected in a new 5900-hectare reserve.

Forest & Bird has agreed to allow representatives from Bathurst mining company to join scientists and other volunteers in the search for plants and animals at the BioBlitz. “In the interests of transparency, we are keen to have an honest discussion about the unique plants and animals that are on the plateau,” Debs Martin says.

“Bathurst has plans to open-cast mine all the high ecological areas on the Denniston Plateau. It is the only conservation land on the Buller plateaus and we are keen to ensure it is protected for the future. If Bathurst destroys these habitats, it will be goodbye to the rare and complex relationships between native plants and animals on the Denniston Plateau. In combination and in their structure they are not found elsewhere in New Zealand. 

“Denniston Plateau is publicly owned conservation land. Forest & Bird wants to make sure it is protected for the benefit of the creatures there and all New Zealanders.”

The BioBlitz has sparked strong interest among scientists and conservationists who want to learn more about the species living on Denniston Plateau. After receiving an overwhelming response, Forest & Bird has closed registrations to finalise the logistics of working on the often extreme environments of the plateau. 

Forest & Bird wants the 5900-hectare reserve created to protect Denniston Plateau’s nature and heritage. “Extensive mining is expanding over the nearby Stockton Plateau so this is the only way we can ensure the survival of this unique ecosystem into the future,” Debs Martin says.