Emeritus Professor David Norton retired from the University of Canterbury at the start of 2022 and has over 40 years’ experience in New Zealand ecology and conservation across public and private land. Over his career, his research and consultancy work has spanned several fields of ecology and conservation biology including the ecology of New Zealand’s native forests, conservation and management of threatened plants, mistletoe biology, ecology of remnant habitats, restoration ecology, threat classification and significance assessment.
Most recently he has researched the distribution and management of native biodiversity within primary production systems, especially sheep and beef farms, working closely with farmers, the farming community and sector groups to promote biodiversity conservation and find ways to build this into farm management. David has also worked on several resource management projects including wind farms, mines, landfills and agricultural developments, and has considerable expertise in significance assessment, biodiversity offsetting and ecological restoration in this context.
Together with postgraduate students and colleagues, he has authored over 150 scientific publications, including co-authoring a book on biodiversity conservation in farming landscapes with an Australian colleague, as well as producing numerous reports for different clients.
Since retiring from the University of Canterbury and moving to Lake Hāwea, David has continued to work actively with the farming sector through his own business Biodiversity Solutions Ltd. to help farmers incorporate native biodiversity into farm management in a way that results in win-win outcomes for farming and native biodiversity.
New Zealand is already facing severe consequences from climate change such as extreme rainfall events, increasingly severe droughts, unprecedented fires, marine heatwaves, and rising sea levels. However it is the global risks that are just as important. Devastating weather events, desertification, the end of coral reefs, wildfires on a scale never seen before, water wars, the increasing abundance of climate refugees; these are the events that will further impact us by threatening global food supply and security.
We need cross-party consensus on radical systemic change for a climate-positive future, and we need this now in 2023. The cost of living crisis is going to be nothing compared to the impacts of the climate crisis.
The world is facing two massive, interlinked crises – biodiversity loss and climate change and this applies in Aotearoa as much as everywhere else. As Sir David Attenborough has pointed out repeatedly, we cannot solve the climate crisis without solving the biodiversity crisis.
Aotearoa/New Zealand’s native forests are unique and special in terms of their biodiversity and their contribution to all New Zealanders’ cultural identity. Our remaining native forests are still under serious threat; the author argues for nature-based solutions based round long-term, intergenerational thinking and putting people in the centre of the narrative about native forests.