Submitted 19 October 2007: View the NZCA's submission on the bioprospecting policy framework.

Submission date: 19 October 2007
Submitted to: Ministry of Economic Development


In determining how a bioprospecting framework might be structured and when setting policy, the NZCA considers that it is necessary, in the following order, to

  1. Increase knowledge of New Zealand’s biota
  2. Protect indigenous biodiversity
  3. Focus on sustainable use
  4. Achieve benefits from any activity for New Zealand as a whole.

Specific comments

Q.1. Do you think we need to have good information about bioprospecting activities in New Zealand, including the type and nature of such activities?

In the view of the NZCA information about bioprospecting activities needs to be in the public domain. Bioprospecting and biodiscovery lie on a continuum of activities: research on the indigenous flora and fauna of New Zealand and the discovery of new species is at one end of the spectrum of activities that contribute to bioprospecting. There needs to be more research on the biota of New Zealand and the results need to be in the public domain. Without biosystematic studies and biodiscovery the development of strategically focused bioprospecting is difficult, if not impossible. Biosystematic studies are also key to the understanding of ecosystem processes and functioning, to enable the documentation of biodiversity, and to underpin biosecurity activities. Such information will be important for uses that we don't yet fully understand.

New Zealanders should have free access to information about the natural heritage and biological fabric of their country. It is the understanding of the NZCA that a significant proportion of information derived from bioprospecting currently does not stay within New Zealand. The NZCA agrees that the adopted regime needs to clearly harness benefits for New Zealand, and it is concerned about the loss of intellectual property derived from New Zealand not being available to New Zealanders.

Q.2. Do you think the existing access frameworks would benefit from operating within a more co-ordinated and comprehensive bioprospecting framework?  If so, why? If not, why not?

NZCA agrees that there should be a comprehensive bioprosecting framework which allows for improved documentation of bio-surveying and biodiversity information. There should be greater co-ordination of databases and knowledge sources to enable tracking and sharing of information.

Q.3.Do you think that New Zealand should have a comprehensive framework to manage bioprospecting activity in this country?

What are your views on the proposed vision and policy principles to guide New Zealand's bioprospecting policy?

NZCA fully supports a comprehensive framework to manage bioprospecting activity in New Zealand. Such a framework needs to:

  • protect indigenous biodiversity
  • be ecologically sustainable
  • take appropriate account of the Treaty of Waitangi and Treaty settlements
  • ensure acknowledgement and respect of Mäori traditional knowledge, including the need to seek permission from holders of traditional knowledge for its use in bioprospecting, consistent with the Convention for Biodiversity.

The policy principle which “ensures the equitable sharing of benefits” needs to state who the sharing of benefits is between/among and how the equitable sharing of benefits will be achieved.

NZCA agrees that bioprospecting policy needs to ensure that applications to bioprospect are treated fairly, with all applications judged against transparent criteria and according to law.

Additional comments on the policy principles:

1. The policy principle which “encourages the timely processing of applications related to bioprospecting, with applicants' transaction costs kept to an optimum level” does not define “optimum”. This policy principle implies that any other transaction costs will be carried by the body to which the application is made. The justification for this is not clear to the NZCA.

Additionally, the NZCA asks that all the impacts of bioprospecting are identified and the true costs are met by those prospecting; in other words that there are no unidentified “externalities” that impact negatively on third parties, and that no costs associated with those impacts are transferred to third parties.

2. The NZCA seeks the removal of “unduly” in policy principle “does not unduly inhibit non-commercial scientific and academic research”. The NZCA agrees that a bioprospecting policy framework needs to ensure that it “does not inhibit non-commercial scientific and academic research”.

NZCA agrees that the bioprospecting policy framework needs to:

  • be integrated with New Zealand's Biotechnology Strategy in order to encourage national and international investment in biotechnology research and development in New Zealand;
  • ensure the implementation of the government's desired policy option, and its associated institutional and administrative arrangements, occur in a cost-effective manner.

Policy scope

If everything was included in the "in scope" category, progress in various areas of biodiversity discovery and documentation could be severely constrained. There need to be mechanisms to cater for circumstances where unexpected discoveries occur, in order that researchers are not penalised for making discoveries. The Bioprospecting Strategy needs to provide clear guidance in a range of potential situations.

The framework needs to protect New Zealand interests in the results of research and investigations, both when these are carried out by overseas researchers as well as those where New Zealand researchers are undertaking the work. At present there are no legal requirements to prevent information and material being removed offshore without fulfilling the formal reporting requirements; for example, depositing voucher specimens in national collections, lodging data in publicly accessible databases, meeting requirements to acknowledge data sources when research results are published in the international scientific literature.

Q.4. How do you think the use of mātauranga Māori for bioprospecting can be most appropriately managed and protected?

The decisions in relation to WAI 262 directly relate to bioprospecting and the NZCA considers that it is premature to be addressing this before the claim is resolved.

Q.5. International bioprospecting frameworks.

In developing a framework for New Zealand, we should be looking to best practice models that have been applied elsewhere.

About the submitter

The New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) is a statutory body established by section 6A of the Conservation Act 1987. Its members are appointed by the Minister of Conservation on the nomination or recommendation of four specified organisations after consultation with specified Ministers of the Crown (5 members) and after the receipt of public nominations (4 members). This process ensures that a wide range of perspectives contribute to the advice provided and decisions made by the NZCA. The functions of the NZCA are centred on policy and planning which impact on the administration of conservation areas and resources managed by the Department of Conservation, and the investigation of any conservation matter it considers is of national importance. The NZCA has the power to advocate its interests at any public forum and in any statutory planning process. The NZCA considers that its functions mean that it has an interest in any policy proposals impacting on the long term protection of indigenous fauna and flora.

Related links

Bioprospecting : harnessing benefits for New Zealand: A policy framework discussion - on the Ministry of Economic Development website

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