Accepting Introduced Species

… it is really difficult to have a meaningful conversation about conservation in New Zealand. Ecologist Jamie Steer

Need to be fair


By Roger Childs

Dr Jamie Steer

Dr Jamie Steer supports the concept of accepting the present natives + invasives mix in our environment.

His view, which is shared by many, is that we can’t go back and re-create the ecosystem of pre-settlement days.

Hundreds of species of plants, insects, birds and animals have been introduced since humans arrived, mostly by European settlers. Many of them didn’t survive, but those that did have often thrived in the new environment. Radiata pine trees are a good example.

Jamie is adamant that we have a responsibility to all species that exist in our current biodiversity.

It’s not fair to wipe some of them out after having introduced them and encouraged them!

What are pests?

They have been here for a long time and birds have survived

Pests are not always pests. Some people think that if we leave nature alone all we’ll be left with will be rats, stoats and possums. This is nonsense.

These three have been around in the country for a long time and haven’t wiped out native birds.

Over the centuries environments such as forests and wetlands have changed as a result of species being lost and gained. We can’t go back and make it what it was before.

Many people feel that the losses of native species are unacceptable, but in fact they are inevitable.

“Natives only” is too purist; biodiversity is inclusive. It’s not

  • Good guys = natives
  • Bad guys = introduced species.

Introduced species

Part of our biodiversity

They were brought in against their will and as the Acclimatization Societies records from earlier times show, many didn’t survive.

However, many have done very well especially those that were introduced in huge numbers and encouraged eg possums, mallard ducks and radiate pine. They like it here!

We can’t just walk away because we introduced them.

Biodiversity doesn’t distinguish between species that originated here and the immigrants.  In New Zealand the preoccupation with natives v introduced has gone too far.

Warriors for the environment?

Maggie Barry, Minister of Conservation in the National government launched the ” Battle for the Birds”

Jamie is very critical of the emotive, militarist language used by the eco-purists.

  • Battle for the Birds
  • War on Weeds

The desire to kill things we don’t like is abhorrent and has aroused criticism around the world. There is a serious ethical question here: are we against life?

The implications of the warlike approach on living things are terrible. In many ways it glamorizes getting rid of so-called pests and it is often a case of the needs justifying the ends.

The reality of the natural world is that all introduced series challenge the natives and that has always been the case. Things change in the ecosystem whether we like or not.

We lack scientific studies on a lot of species. Invertebrates and bugs are not glamorous and there are few in-depth research studies about them.

The glamorous birds

Banded Dotterels (Painting by Cushla McGaughey)

Our bird life is put on a pedestal – the flying things are fluffy and popular.

Birds are vital for our tourist trade and are very useful in selling the country to overseas visitors. The names of birds (and trees) are also popular as

~ street names

~ house names in schools

~ names for retirement village areas.

Eco-purist hypocrisy

Not only are there advocates for wiping out introduced species, some people are obsessed even about growing natives in areas where they are not endemic.

In the northern Waiarapa Bud Jones has a wonderful mix of native and exotic trees which attract both native and introduced birds.

Last year a group was intent on seeing pohutukawa trees removed from the Wellington-Kapiti area.

Local people will recall that a few years ago council officers pulled out some Waikanae River plantings because the species were not endemic to the area!

Such an approach is deeply hypocritical and there is a clear need for moderation.

Our biodiversity is what we’ve got – natives, introduced, birds, bugs, possums, rats, gorse, stoats, sheep, pigs, cattle, blackberry …

We need to look after them all.


This article is proof that having a PhD does not necessarily mean you are very smart. Dr. Jamie Steer lacks a fundamental understanding of ecology and the unique problems facing conservation in New Zealand. Sad that this rubbish has been published.

Well Bob, you clearly have not read his thesis. Because if you had, THAT would be the most absurd thing you have ever read.. Seriously he goes full Godwin on page 15.

Fabulous item by Dr Steer,
I offered up our 214 ha. farm with5 large lakes,21 small ponds and 30,000 trees planted by me for a QE2 Openspace Covenant protection in perpetuity but it was rejected initially because it had too many exotic trees and birds.When I pointed out the many thriving endemic dabchick which are on the cusp of extinction, suddenly there was a flurry of interest to approve the application.It is Time we put the hand–book of cleansing and clock– turning back written by Hermann Goering written for Auschwitz on a dusty shelf with Bat Man and Spider Woman The days of Goering’s famous utterance” I alone will determine who is a Jew, ” sadly, is still with us as some official behind a desk determines alone what is a “pest!!”

Why doesn’t Jamie learn from Australia? From the region?
IF an introduced predator species, including migrant people, damage the ecosystem (rather than cliche habitat) hunt and kill a critically endangered endemic or native species to the brink of extinction, the science require control and management, including breeding programs in and or ex-situ. It is called wildlife management for conservation! Cull one- or trans-locate the other. Keeping them together is “murder” and or sanctioned terrorism.
Sorry! I do not agree with other science and propaganda, which had, has and shall lead to simplistic extinction. I do not once however accept the use of any poison for wildlife management.

I wonder if by some wild stretch of the imagination predators of birds were exterminated would exotic bird species explode in numbers creating competition for food of native birds then creating a need to get rid of the likes of blackbirds thrushes finches ducks etc, magpies rooks and Canada geese are already on the bird pest list. I suppose it will be more work for those who dream up poisons to invent some toxin to get rid of specific bird species and keep the Government owned poison factory Orillion in business

dr steer is one of the few people that has got it right 1080 is not helping our wildlife in fact it is doing more harm than good nature creates its own natural balance

Good common sense. Enjoy our great outdoors and all our wildlife…..flora, fauna, mammals and birds. People working harvesting ,utilising fur, protein and caring for our native wildlife not cruelly poisoning all manner of wildlife under the ridiculous banner of saving.

What a great article. Jamie Steer is so right. i was interested in this paragraph Pests are not always pests. “Some people think that if we leave nature alone all we’ll be left with will be rats, stoats and possums. This is nonsense.
These three have been around in the country for a long time and haven’t wiped out native birds.”
I’ve always argued if stoats and rats which have been here for 150 years and more were going to annihilate birds they would have conceivably done it within 20, 30 or say 50 years. But they didn’t. Bird life was abundant in 1950s-80s.
But research (Ruscoe, Sweetapple, Nugent etc) shows 1080 drops stimulate massive upward surges in fast breeding species like rats within 3 to 4 years of drop. Then there is a rat plague thanks to DoC and politicians like Nick Smith and Maggie Barry’s stupidity. As for possums Landcare work shows they don’t eat birds or eggs. They’re a herbivore anyhow.
Top stuff Jamie.
Tony Orman

So Tony, the photos and videos that I have seen showing possums and, stoats and rats raiding nests of both live chicks and eggs are our version of ‘Fake News ‘ then? I think not somehow. Most thinking people do not like 1080 but at the moment there’s no viable alternative. I do believe that we need active management of pests – including P radiata – if we want to keep what we have left

Dr Jamie Steer is so right! If our disloyal department of Conservation, Ospri, Orillion, Zip, Predator Free 2050 were to close down and stop the huge wastage of taxpayer dollars on 1080 poison we could spend these hundreds of millions on poverty and health and be the Nation whom looks after it’s people, not one whom destroys it people through pollution and 1080 residues!

Good comments. I am getting sick of puritanical eco “warriors” and zealots thinking they are God and can choose which period of time to capture in a bottle!! I even had one tell me that they could happily swap out a few pukeko and weka (both native!) because they want to turn an area into a bird sanctuary!! Lunatics.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.