Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Biodiversity planning for Victoria University of Wellington's Kelburn campus

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posted on 2021-11-22, 01:47 authored by Forsyth, Frances Mary Jean

Urbanisation changes the biotic and abiotic elements of natural environments irrevocably and almost always results in losses of indigenous species and habitats and the creation of new habitats. Humans are attracted to cities for social and economic reasons but put considerable effort into making life in cities more pleasant by creating urban green spaces where they can go, or which they can look at, to re-connect with the natural environment. Historically, large organisations and institutions, including universities, have also created park-like gardens for the benefit of their workers and students.  This research concerns the 3.87 ha of garden and wilderness green space areas on the Victoria University of Wellington Kelburn campus (New Zealand). Established on a steep hillside in suburban Wellington in the early 1900s it now lies along the boundary of the Central Business District. Effective management of the grounds has become a priority in order that increasing numbers of students and staff may get more benefit from the services they provide, and the natural capital of both the campus and the city can be enhanced. A management plan incorporating recommendations from this research could guide biodiversity and environmental enhancement of the campus. As well as supporting urban biodiversity, and students and staff, these enhancement actions will strengthen and improve relationships with stakeholders, raising the profile of the university and bring its biodiversity policies in line with local government.  For this study I measured tree frequency, density and species diversity on the Kelburn Campus and compared present day tree species richness with historic records for the campus, the Wellington Botanic Garden native forest remnants, and a local bush reserve. I also determined recruitment rates for campus trees. A total of 177 tree and shrub species were identified including plantings of 17 rare indigenous species. The overall diversity score was moderate (Shannon Weiner 3.023), and species richness on the campus had diminished from a high of 146 species in 1990. Without intervention species richness is likely to fall even further given that 81 species are currently represented by four or fewer trees. Recruitment data for weedy non-local species (both introduced and non-local indigenous) showed that there were significant numbers of these species in most size groups from seedling to mature trees. This indicates that greater control of these species is required.  In the second part of the study I questioned members of the campus community about how they valued its green space, where they went and why, what they liked about their favourite places, and what they would like to see more or less of in campus green space. The results were, in general, consistent with the literature. Male staff were prepared to travel further than students to get to their favourite places and also showed a preference for exercise over relaxation; females showed slightly more preference than males for warm and sheltered spots, and students preferred relaxation and socialising over exercise as their reason for going to their favourite places. Access and seating were important and a large proportion of respondents wanted more warm sunny places and more birds. Large trees, native plants, flowers and lawns were also popular. These preferences were common to both students and staff.  Victoria University expects that the Kelburn campus population could double in size over the next twenty years or so. This will place pressure on campus green space, five percent of which was lost to development in 2015. Through my research I have demonstrated that biodiversity gains could be achieved through effective management of pest plant species and judicious planting. Permanent protection and planned management of campus green space and recognition of it as a capital asset will be important for retaining staff and students, and for improving relationships with neighbours and stakeholders. Specific recommendations include:  1. Research into the food value for birds of Pseudopanax hybrids compared with local Pseudopanax species.  2. Research into the likelihood of local Pseudopanax species being forced into local extinction by hybrid species.  3. Develop a pest plant management plan.  4. Determine which soils in campus green space areas have high biodiversity potential and select plants accordingly.  5. Determine the needs of the multicultural campus community for green space.  6. Promote green space areas to staff and students as destinations and provide explanatory information regarding the natural and other values of particular sites.  7. Enhance natural and infrastructural elements of green spaces with planting, pest control, seating, shelter, and canopy gaps for sunshine.  8. Review access routes for pedestrian comfort, future capacity, connectivity with the surrounding neighbourhood, and accessibility for variously 'abled' people. Give campus roads and pathways names and signage.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Ecology and Biodiversity

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Biological Sciences


Linklater, Wayne; Hartley, Stephen