Submission on proposed changes to the wetlands regulations
IntroductionSubmitted 27 October 2021: Read the NZCA's submission to the Ministry for the Environment on Managing our wetlands: proposed changes to the wetlands regulations.
The Legislative Basis for the New Zealand Conservation Authority’s submission
- The New Zealand Conservation Authority (the Authority) was established under the Conservation Act 1987 (the Act), with members appointed by the Minister of Conservation (the Minister). 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.
- The Authority has a growing 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 performance.
- The Authority has a range of powers and functions, under the Act, as well as under other conservation related legislation. 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.”
- Following the logic of the above powers and functions, the Authority wishes to comment on two aspects of the proposed changes.
The Authority’s submission
- The Authority’s submission is based on its analysis of:
- Managing our wetlands: A discussion document on proposed changes to the wetland regulations, published September 2021 by the Ministry for the Environment
Change to better enable ‘natural wetland’ restoration, maintenance, and biosecurity work
- The Authority supports changes to encourage further wetland restoration. New Zealand’s wetlands have been reduced on average to less than 10 percent of their original extent; in some regions, only two or three percent of wetland extent remains. Wetland destruction is continuing. Unnecessary barriers to wetland restoration activities should generally be avoided.
- The Authority notes, however, that caution is required where restoration activities have the potential to impact on wetland fauna that may be vulnerable to poorly planned restoration works. Council oversight (e.g. a resource consent) may be appropriate where restoration activities involving chemical sprays or mechanised tools are proposed in wetlands known to be habitat for native animals.
Proposals for additional consent pathways
- The NES-F provides for a range of permitted activities; ‘specified infrastructure’ is provided for as discretionary activity, and, earthworks, vegetation clearance etc. are provided for as non-complying activities. The Authority notes that the key change proposed in the consultation document is to alter the rules that prevent complete or partial drainage of wetlands, to enable a greater range of activities within or close to wetlands.
- The Authority does not support the proposal to provide a “consenting pathway” for quarries, landfills, cleanfills, mines, and urban activities provided for in District Plans. The consultation document does not give confidence that the ‘gateway’ tests of regional importance and functional need, alongside the requirement to follow the ‘effects management hierarchy’, will ensure protection of wetlands.
- The definitions of offsetting and compensation are particularly concerning as they anticipate wetland loss, which may or may not be addressed by compensatory measures. There is no evidence base demonstrating that compensatory measures (such as enhancement of other wetlands, or construction of new wetlands) are sufficient to ensure the ecosystem services provided by wetlands, including for biodiversity and carbon sequestration, will be maintained.