Submitted 16 January 2023: Read the NZCA's submission on the joint DOC and Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) Long-term Insights Briefing.

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 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 Te Papa Atawhai (Department, DOC) on its strategic direction and performance.
  3. The Authority has a range of powers and functions, under the Act, as well as under other conservation related legislation. One of the Authority’s functions is “to investigate any nature conservation or other conservation matters the Authority considers are of national importance, and to advise the Minister or Director-General, as appropriate” (section 6B(1)(d) refers) and the Authority has the power to “advocate the interests of the Authority at any public forum or in any statutory planning process” (section 6C(2)(c) refers).
  4. Following the logic of the above powers and functions, the Authority submits on the Long-Term Insight Briefing, How can we help biodiversity thrive through the innovative use of information and emerging technologies?, jointly prepared by the Department and Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), released in November 2022.

NZCA Submission

  1. The Authority’s submission is based on its analysis of the information in the report, and its own consideration of future needs. Its submission is framed in response to the questions that were posed.

Areas of Transformation

  1. The Authority agrees that these are all important technologies (satellite imagery and remote sensing, artificial intelligence and data-driven technologies, and genetic technologies) that offer opportunities for protection of biodiversity.
  2. The Authority agrees that it is critical that the five main drivers of biodiversity loss (invasive species, climate change, pollution, exploitation, and changing land and sea use) are addressed, and that there are important opportunities for technological approaches to surveillance and monitoring, data gathering, and analyses.
  3. In prioritising actions for biodiversity protection, it is critically important to know what is present, and how the state and condition of species/habitats/ecosystems is changing.

What other technologies could be game-changing for biodiversity?

  1. The Authority submits that the following areas of pursuit will be crucial for biodiversity targets:
    • Preservation of genetic resources and diversity through seed banking/retention of genetic material for breeding programmes, propagation for restoration etc: New approaches to cryopreservation, long term seed preservation, plant propagation and cell cultures, and breeding programmes, will enable the protection of species and habitats that are placed at risk; the development of methods to enable restoration of populations/species; and bolster species survival through the selection of genetic strains that are resilient to climate change stressors.
    • Acceleration of discovery and documentation of the species that share our lands and oceans: The combination of eDNA, high-throughput DNA sequencing, artificial intelligence (character recognition, field applications for monitoring and surveys etc, applications for biomimicry), and super-computing, will address the lack of reliable data. DNA profiles of native flora and fauna will lead to use in further applications (e.g. for biodiversity surveys and monitoring of status and health of habitats/populations; biosecurity surveillance, rapid confirmation of smuggled products, etc.). The “data deficient” status for a high proportion of New Zealand’s flora and fauna is extremely problematic and must be addressed. Species that are unknown are not unimportant; some will be crucial species in ecosystems, important for agriculture or biosecurity, either as emerging pests or diseases, or as natural biological controls for pests and diseases, helping ensure that our lands and oceans remain productive and healthy. Other species will be important resources for future industries and, if managed wisely, may drive future economic growth. If a species is not yet known and documented, then it cannot be adequately protected.
    • Mobilisation of data to serve biodiversity management goals specifically; species and specimen data in natural history collections (major museums, CRIs); and environmental data in central and local government, CRIs, and universities: The issue of inaccessibility of datasets in New Zealand has been acknowledged in a number of reports over the past decade.1 There has been significant investment made to obtain the data, however the need to develop systems that will serve public institutions, and make data accessible for further analysis and application, remains urgent. In the case of species and specimen data in natural history collections, recommendations on a national approach to these resources have been outlined (refer RSNZ report), and investment in the application of technology could enable inter-operability of databases and greatly improved access to critical biodiversity information.

What aspects of these technologies should be taken into account when considering their use?

  1. There could be potential in exploring biological control approaches in addition to genetic technologies (e.g., contraception, sterilisation to slow breeding of invasive species).

Support a future focus

How should we build stronger international relationships?

  1. It will be important to learn from other The sharing of knowledge and resources on an international scale will be important and needs to be encouraged.
  2. There is considerable opportunity to build relationships where species that are invasive here are native to others.

What areas of biodiversity could Aotearoa New Zealand provide global leadership in?

  1. New Zealand has had a leading role in species protection and recovery, control of unwanted species, and in aspects of biosecurity, and has developed a range of innovative solutions to local and specific issues.

Build an understanding of new tools and approaches

If we decide to use emerging technologies, how can we build social license, cultural licence, and trust to support their safe and effective use?

  1. For emerging technologies to be applied in New Zealand, it is critical that the best possible information is made available in accessible formats for communities and decision makers, that communities can be informed and engage with the potential implications of the applications and data use, and that sufficient time is allowed for engagement and discussion.
  2. In order to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi, improve understanding, provide critical insights, and increase engagement across communities, it is critically important that all strands of knowledge are considered when making decisions about the use of information and

Encourage community participation

How much of a role should government have in biodiversity protection?

  1. The Authority considers that Government has critical responsibilities for biodiversity protection, both nationally and in order to meet international conventions and obligations. Government needs to take a leading role, providing leadership in strategies to protect biodiversity and secure the long-term environmental security for New Zealand, and in the coordination of biodiversity information and making this accessible. While there are many other components that are critical to biodiversity protection, the Government investment is crucial.
  2. As noted in Te Mana o Te Taiao / Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy the pou Tūāpapa – getting the system right, is a critical component to tackle biodiversity crisis in the New Zealand Biodiversity protection for Aotearoa New Zealand will only be achieved when there is integration of biodiversity protection goals across all of government.
  3. The pou Tiaki me te whakahaumanu – protecting and restoring, addressing direct pressures causing a decline in biodiversity (e.g., overfishing, bottom trawling, sedimentation in rivers and offshore through land use practices, erosion triggered by explosion in mammalian pest numbers, decline in ecological health as a result of introduced plants and transformer weeds) reflects issues that need to be tackled by central government policies and legislation.
  4. The pou Whakahau - empowering action is critically important. Many New Zealanders (iwi, communities, business, and NGOs) are actively engaged and play vital roles in biodiversity protection.

How involved should community and iwi groups be in biodiversity protection?

  1. There is already a high level of engagement by many iwi and community groups in local initiatives and actions as well as in advocacy and actions in regional and national fora. As kaitiaki, and people valuing local resources, and experiencing impacts of biodiversity loss, iwi and community groups have critically important insights and experience to inform biodiversity protection initiatives.

How can government best collaborate with others?

  1. Government must demonstrate its commitment to enhancing our biodiversity; taking the lead and providing funding encourages prioritisation and collaboration with others.

Build an understanding of new tools and approaches

What could the guiding principles for decision-making about information and biotechnology look like, and who should be involved in developing these?

  1. Social licence is crucial and requires principles of transparency from the earliest opportunity. National oversight and partnership with iwi will ensure decisions are driven by scientific and mātauranga Māori perspectives.

Gather and manage data

What are the key data issues that the government will need to think about to get the foundations right for using data-driven and emerging technologies?

  1. Both the scale and longevity of data will need to be considered. Science is cumulative, and funding sources must account for the need for continued monitoring.

Strengthen funding and investment

What areas should we put funding or resourcing into, and why?

  1. Funding for technologies as well as training the workforce to address:
  • climate and weather variability (e.g., carbon, methane; rainfall, water/snow budgets, river flows, groundwater; sediment budgets; coastal and ocean conditions, sea surface temperature, pH, productivity) – through a range of remote sensing technologies (satellites, ocean buoys, automated recording systems etc etc)
  • acceleration of discovery and documentation of the species that share our lands and oceans – through targeted biodiversity surveys, monitoring and application of range of technologies
  • accessibility of species and specimen databases and collections through investment in database systems to connect diverse information streams
  • preservation of genetic resources and diversity through seed banking/retention of genetic material for breeding programmes, propagation for restoration etc
  • biosecurity - monitoring/surveillance for pathogens and pests, non-indigenous species; development of targeted control technologies/solutions for eradication/control - through technologies such as remote sensing, artificial intelligence, etc.

1 (e.g. PCE Report, 2019. Focusing Aotearoa New Zealand’s environmental reporting system; PCE Report, 2020. A review of the funding and prioritisation of environmental research in New Zealand; Royal Society Te Apārangi, 2015. National taxonomic collections in New Zealand.)

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