Mining Denniston

Mining Denniston

The mining on Denniston has been given the go-ahead by the Environment Court.

Radio New Zealand report on the approval of the Bathurst Escarpment mine.

Part of the area at Denniston set to be opencast-mined. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.
Part of the area at Denniston set to be opencast-mined. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

The mine application covers just over one square kilometre.

According to a report by the Department of Conservation, there are within that area at least eight plants and animals that are officially rated as Threatened – that is, they are Nationally Critical, Nationally Endangered, or Nationally Vulnerable.

Department of Conservation’s report (pdf).

These are four liverworts, two lichens, one fern, and one snail.

Liverworts: Isolembidium anomalum var. anomalum, Nationally Critical; Neogrollea notabilis, Nationally Endangered; Saccogynidium decurvum, Nationally Vulnerable; Telaranea inaequalis, Nationally Vulnerable.

Lichens: Austropeltum glareosum, Nationally Endangered; Pycnothelia caliginosa, Nationally Endangered.

Fern: Sticherus tener, Nationally Critical.

Snail: Powelliphanta patrickensis, Nationally Endangered.

The report lists several additional At Risk species, and media reports suggest a number of new, as-yet-undescribed species.

As a scientist researching New Zealand’s biodiversity, including describing new species, I am interested in New Zealand’s biodiversity ‘hotspots’. In this context, I’m wondering:

Where else in New Zealand do eight or more officially Threatened species occur within an area of one square kilometre?

Initial suggestions for consideration include several of the offshore islands, Surville Cliffs (northern North Island), parts of inland Otago (e.g., Macraes Flat), and various coastal turfs (e.g., south Taranaki).

More suggestions would be welcome – please leave any ideas below. A list of Threatened species within a well-defined area would be particularly useful.

Te Papa’s collection includes several hundred thousand specimens of animals and plants from New Zealand. Together with similar collections, it is used by biodiversity scientists, including Te Papa’s own team, to: document the species that are present in New Zealand; to determine how each of these species can be distinguished; and to understand where each species occurs and how common it is.

An example from Te Papa’s collection showing common and uncommon species: the fern genus Sticherus.  Clicking on the map will make it interactive, and the legend can then be used to map each species individually.

From these collections, as well as observations and other records, a fair amount is already known about where many species occur in New Zealand. This in turn has informed an official conservation-ranking assessment of many of New Zealand’s species (with these rankings regularly revised).

What New Zealand needs now are the computer tools and connected data to make the analytical identification of biodiversity ‘hotspots’ easy and efficient, across all of the country and for all animals, plants, fungi, and other organisms.

Previous Denniston-related posts:

Compensating for ecological harm.

Would you mine a rare population?


  1. Author

    Thanks to Tim Park who has let me know that the Parangarahu Lakes area, near Wellington, is home to 14 Nationally Threatened species: 8 birds, 4 flowering plants, and 2 invertebrates.

  2. In the NZPCN newsletter Trilepidea of September 2008 Mike Thorsen asked the question:
    Where in New Zealand is the highest diversity of threatened plants?
    He suggested that perhaps Macraes had the highest density within its 3,000 hectares.

    I replied in November 2008 that the Chatham Islands would certainly have more threatened species, even in the Nor west corner of 3,000 hectares.
    Within the 3,000 hectares I suspect there are several square kilometres with each one having at least 8 or more officially threatened species.

    1. Author

      Thanks Geoff. That’s extremely useful information. I had see Mike Thorsen’s article, and will need to do a bit of translation to convert it to the new conservation categories.

      I had missed your article. The number of Threatened species in the north-west corner of Chatham Island is impressively high.

      Summarising Geoff’s article, within c. 30 square kilometres there are 14 Threatened (vascular plant) taxa: Cortaderia turbaria, Nationally Critical; Linum monogynum var. chathamicum, Nationally Critical; Puccinellia chathamica, Nationally Critical; Aciphylla traversii, Nationally Endangered; Asplenium pauperequitum, Nationally Endangered; Astelia chathamica, Nationally Endangered; Brachyglottis huntii, Nationally Endangered; Embergeria grandifolia, Nationally Endangered; Lepidium aff. oleraceum (b),Nationally Endangered; Rhopalostylis aff. sapida, Nationally Endangered; Daucus glochidiatus, Nationally Vulnerable; Lepidium aff. flexicaule, Nationally Vulnerable; Leptinella featherstonii, Nationally Vulnerable; Prasophyllum hectorii, Nationally Vulnerable. (Names and rankings not updated from original article.)

      And within that 30 square kilometre area, there are probably parts where the “Threatened Species / square kilometre” approaches or exceeds the 8 at Denniston.

      I will try to look into this in more detail, and I’ll post any updates.

    1. Author

      Thanks Alastair. Great suggestion. I’ll work through that reference, updating the plant names and checking which are still threatened, and see what I end up with.

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