Conservation ambassador named

  • 13/08/2015
Nicola Toki
Nicola Toki

They're not warm, they're hardly cuddly but inspiring New Zealand's public to save its creepy crawlies is one of the top orders of business for the first threatened species ambassador.

Self-confessed nature nerd Nicola Toki was appointed to the new high-profile role by Conservation Minister Maggie Barry at a ceremony at Zealandia in Wellington today.

And one of her top priorities is to get New Zealanders to love their threatened insects.

"I'd like to get people excited about giant wetas and freshwater fish," Ms Toki said.

"But of course there's always opportunity to tell the story of kakapos, kiwis and takahe because they act as a conduit for the whole story of New Zealand."

The position is open-ended within the Department of Conservation with Ms Toki saying the goal is to work herself out a job, a goal which will be partly achieved by culling pests.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry said the cost of introduced pests to the agriculture sector in terms of control and impact on production was around $3.3 billion, money which could be better spent elsewhere.

"The only way we can save the things we love is by killing the things which don't belong here," Ms Barry told reporters.

"That's a message which is quite hard to get across to the public."

New Zealand has a tentative goal of being predator-free by 2050, which Ms Barry said if achieved, would free up funds to invest in other conservation projects such as wildlife reserves.

Ms Toki started her career with the DOC in 2003, before taking on a variety of roles including researching, writing and hosting more than 200 episodes of DOC's nature documentary series Meet the Locals before she was appointed to the newly created role.