Summitted 21 September 2022: Read the NZCA's submission on the on the proposal set out in the Managing our wetlands in the coastal marine area discussion document.

The Legislative Basis for the New Zealand Conservation Authority’s submission

  1. The New Zealand Conservation Authority / Te Pou Atawhai Taiao o Aotearoa (Authority/ NZCA) was established under the Conservation Act 1987 (Act), with members appointed by the Minister of Conservation. It is an independent statutory body with a range of functions, but primarily acts as an independent conservation advisor to the Minister and the Director-General of Conservation.
  2. The Authority has a role as an objective advocate on matters of national significance and interest in the conservation arena and to provide high quality independent advice to the Department of Conservation (Department) on its strategic direction and
  3. The Authority has a range of powers and functions, under the Act, as well as under other conservation related Under the Act (section 6C(2)(c) refers) the Authority has the power to “advocate the interests of the Authority at any public forum or in any statutory planning process.”
  4. Following the logic of the above powers and functions, the Authority submits on the Ministry for the Environment discussion document on the application of the National Environment Standards for Freshwater to the coastal marine area.

NZCA Submission

  1. The Authority’s submission is based on its analysis of:
    • Managing our wetlands in the coastal marine area discussion document
    • The High Court decision in Minister of Conservation v Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society Incorporated [2021] NZHC 3113 (High Court)
The NZCA supports Option 1: Amend the NES-F to clarify how it applies to the Coastal Marine Area
  1. The NZCA notes that the National Environment Standards for Freshwater Management (NES-F) is the first protection document with teeth that has the necessary authority to restrict activities to counter loss or degradation of coastal wetlands, as many regional coastal plans are completely inadequate in providing such protection.
  2. The habitats that would be defined as ‘natural coastal wetland’ and therefore would be protected under Option 1, would include habitats such as saltmarsh, mangroves, seagrass, and mud/sandflats. These habitats are important for providing a range of ecosystem services, are often treated poorly (through draining, dredging, vehicle impacts, dumping etc), and are frequently strongly negatively affected by land use practices (sedimentation, eutrophication, etc).
  3. Not only are coastal wetlands and estuarine areas essential for ecosystem health, but there is also evidence that wetlands are important to Aotearoa NZ’s overall carbon budget. In the face of rising sea levels and multiple stresses placed on coastal margins and these transitional habitats, these areas require protection and respect; protection that is not offered in Option 2.
  4. The NZCA highlights that ease of operations is not necessarily indicative of best overall outcomes, particularly when applied to the health of our natural environment, species, habitats, biodiversity, and As custodians of these places, we must balance their health with human impact, and this will rarely lend itself to the cheapest option.
  5. The NZCA notes that any problematic outcomes and unintended consequences of either option, is the responsibility of those drafting these Any such consequences are not restricted to the costs facing councils in implementation, but the impacts on the environment and the ecosystems therein.
  6. In summary, the NZCA submits in support of Option 1 and in opposition to Option 2, for the following reasons:
    • The NES-F was intended to protect coastal wetlands (expressed in the regulatory impact statements and Cabinet papers), and it was a declaratory finding by the High Court.
    • Regional coastal plans do not adequately protect these areas; if the NES-F does not apply to coastal wetlands, protection for these areas, many of which are critical for biodiversity, cultural, landscape and natural character reasons, will be
    • The outcome of Option 2 is not consistent with sections 6(a) and (c) or section 8 of the Resource Management Act 1991.
    • The reason for MfE preferring Option 2 over Option 1 appears to be largely down to the work involved in producing coastal-specific NES provisions, which is not reason enough to revoke protection mechanisms.
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