Read the NZCA's advice to the Minister of Conservation on protecting and enhancing indigenous biodiversity

To:  Hon Eugenie Sage, Minister of Conservation
Date:  21 March 2019

The Authority have always closely followed national and local indigenous biodiversity initiatives.  These initiatives demonstrate the growing awareness of the role all New Zealanders play in protecting and enhancing New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity.  The Authority views the integration of all efforts as being the key to achieving indigenous biodiversity recovery and enhancement.

The Authority has statutory obligations around protecting New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity, as reflected in our strategic priorities.  The Authority fulfils these obligations through the approval of conservation management strategies and national park management plans, where we ensure indigenous biodiversity protection and management is prioritised.  The Authority also has an advocacy role in terms of promoting conservation and biodiversity issues, this includes providing advice to yourself and the Director-General of Conservation, and in various public processes and fora.

We note an upsurge in activity around indigenous biodiversity and its protection and management.  Notable recent national initiatives and reports include:

  • The refresh of the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy, 2000
  • The Local Government Willis Report, Addressing New Zealand’s Biodiversity Challenge, 2017
  • The draft National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity and associated report by the Biodiversity Collaborative Group, released in October 2018
  • Beef and Lamb NZ (Norton & Pannell Report), desk top assessment of native vegetation on New Zealand sheep and beef farms, June 2018
  • One Billion Trees Programme, with a focus on native plantings (we are of the view that this programme can produce major indigenous biodiversity gains on both private and public lands).

Significant initiatives at the local level are also occurring.  For example, the Otago Conservation Board ran a Biodiversity Forum in September 2018.  This forum involved DOC, all Territorial Councils in the Otago area, the Otago Regional Council, Ngāi Tahu, the University of Otago and Beef & Lamb NZ.  The large-scale conservation programmes, such as Battle for our Birds, Predator Free 2050 and wilding tree control, are also seen to be inspiring the New Zealand community, as evidenced by the large number of active community conservation groups.

The Authority support the comments and recommendations of the Local Government Willis Report, which provides good insight into the breadth of the issue New Zealand is facing.  The Report calls for some innovative thinking at the national and local level, notably around leadership and a coordination of efforts.  We see the linking of current and future initiatives, while also providing value for money, as a huge challenge, as well as the protection and management of indigenous biodiversity on private land which must be achieved by individual landowners.  Making parcels of native vegetation on private land eligible for carbon credits could be a workable option, provided these parcels were permanently protected and pest control work is carried out.  This would have the advantage of carbon sequestration from a regenerating parcel of native vegetation, help meet New Zealand climate change obligations, and be of benefit to indigenous biodiversity.  Making such linkages across national policies and regulations is important in terms of reversing the decline of New Zealand indigenous biodiversity.

The Authority also sees the refresh of the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy as critical, but equally critical is the development of the National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity under the Resource Management Act 1991, given a large hectarage of indigenous biodiversity remains unprotected on private land. 

As an aside, we note that at this stage the Biodiversity Collaborative Group could not agree about the inclusion of freshwater ecosystems (other than wetlands) in the National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity.  The Authority consider it to be essential that the next draft of the National Policy Statement includes all freshwater ecosystems, otherwise the conservation status of many freshwater species will continue to decline.  We understand that the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management deals with this issue, but we feel it is an advantage to include freshwater ecosystems in both statements, due to the declining conservation status of many indigenous species.

In conclusion, the Authority strongly supports the current indigenous biodiversity initiatives. While we note there is still much to be done it is encouraging to see the Provincial Growth Fund target funds for predator control and the announcement of new Government biodiversity funding of $76 million to be applied by DOC over the next four years. We hope to see more coordination in the efforts of all New Zealanders to achieve positive conservation outcomes, as well as within national policies and regulations.  We look forward to contributing to future discussions on the protection and management of indigenous biodiversity.

No reira
E noho ora mai

Edward Ellison ONZM
Chairperson NZCA

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