Summary For the 70% of New Zealand under private ownership, native biodiversity conservation has to occur within a landscape that must also provide a productive return to land owners. Recent New Zealand legislation, especially the Resource Management Act 1991, promotes sustainable management on private land by allowing for the economic and cultural well-being of local communities while providing for the protection of natural resources including native biodiversity. We suggest that, to effectively conserve native biodiversity in rural landscapes, we need to consider four key issues: (i) what might be realistic goals for native biodiversity conservation; (ii) how might we better arrange different land uses to meet both native biodiversity and production goals; (iii) what is the optimum arrangement of native biodiversity; and (iv) how native biodiversity conservation can improve productive returns to land managers. Options to enhance native biodiversity conservation include a variety of incentives (e.g. management agreements, financial incentives and regulatory systems) and onsite management options (e.g. remnant management, restoration plantings, weed and pest control, use of native species for commercial and amenity purposes, use of exotic species to facilitate native biodiversity). The importance of taking a landscape-based rather than a paddock-based approach to management is emphasized.