Submission on the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity – Exposure Draft
IntroductionSubmitted ion 21 July 2022: Read the NZCA's submission on the exposure draft of the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (NPS-IB).
The Legislative Basis for the New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) submission
- The New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) was established under the Conservation Act 1987, 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.
- The NZCA 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 (DOC) on its strategic direction and performance.
- The NZCA has a range of powers and functions, under the Conservation Act 1987 (Act), as well as under other conservation related legislation. Under section 6C(2)(c) of the Act, the NZCA 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 NZCA have agreed on making this submission which sets out its concerns with the current draft policy statement.
- The NZCA submission is based on its analysis of:
- Exposure Draft for the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (NPS-IB)
- The NZCA makes its submission noting the important role biodiversity plays in the conservation of Aotearoa New Zealand’s natural beauty and environmental attraction. With the presence of numerous unique ecosystems around the country, the NZCA identifies the need for an indigenous biodiversity policy that stretches across the land and seas, covering terrestrial, freshwater, and marine biodiversity.
- On 5 March 2020, the NZCA lodged a submission on the Draft National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity released in November 2019. In that submission a number of points were highlighted for consideration to produce a sounder policy. This current submission will assess whether or not the previous recommendations were incorporated into the 2022 draft policy and raise any further points relating to the new draft policy.
This submission makes effort to recognise that our marine environment has substantially greater biodiversity when compared to that of the terrestrial environment.
- The NZCA, through its advocacy over the past year, has pushed for greater protection of freshwater and marine ecosystems and environments. The NZCA acknowledges that the current draft policy statement, and its previous revision developed by the Biodiversity Collaborative Group, applies to the terrestrial environment and not to the coastal marine area or freshwater. While it is acceptable for this instrument to be focused on the terrestrial environment, it is imperative that this does not mean freshwater and marine indigenous biodiversity is left by the wayside.
- There is a vast extent of marine biodiversity in New Zealand; with the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covering 4.2 million square kilometres, and the Extended Continental Shelf (ECS), the larger Zealandia continental shelf, covering a further 1.7 million square This area equates to roughly 21 times the land mass of New Zealand.
- Although there is currently some protection for marine and freshwater indigenous biodiversity in the NZ Coastal Policy Statement (NZCPS) and the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPSFM), our indigenous biodiversity is nevertheless declining in both domains. This suggests that a careful look at the extent and effectiveness of protections on indigenous biodiversity in these domains is urgently required, if the statutory obligation to maintain indigenous biodiversity, which is not limited to just the terrestrial environment, is to be met.
- The application clause in section 1.3(1) specifically excludes coastal marine and freshwater domains unless they are included in a regional biodiversity strategy (s 1.3(2)(d)). This is a concern for the NZCA, as the NPS-IB should be providing national guidance for all environmental regimes. Although noting that the NPS-IB does not apply to ‘aquatic indigenous biodiversity’, this term is not defined in the document, the NPSFM or the Resource Management Act (RMA) and so is uncertain. Defining the NPS-IB’s application spatially would be more certain – as long as MfE can do so in a way that ensures all indigenous biodiversity is covered under national direction (NPS-IB, NZCPS, NPSFM or Te Mana o Te Taiao / Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy).
- This submission addresses important themes in the NPS-IB in the following sections.
Recognising te ao Māori and the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi
- In its previous submission, the NZCA endorsed that an appropriate consideration of mātauranga Māori was given in the use and application of science. The NZCA strongly supports the detailed expansion of Te Rito o te Harakeke in section 1.5(2)(a) to (f) as a way of appropriate incorporation of te ao Māori and mātauranga into the NPS-IB.
- Furthermore, section 3.3 provides a clear and detailed set of requirements on how local authorities are to engage with, and work in partnership with tangata whenua, and Māori landowners, to develop and include practical steps of achievements in protecting biodiversity on Māori lands. The NZCA endorses this approach and emphasises the need for a collaborative partnerships approach to be adhered to.
- The majority of Māori Land Trusts have significant areas of indigenous species that have been safeguarded on their private lands for generations, often in direct disobedience of government requests to make their lands economically more productive through enterprises such as felling. The NZCA finds that, for the intent of section 3.3 to be fully realised, there is a cultural change required to enable power sharing, true partnership, and collaboration with Māori landowners.
Identifying important biodiversity and taonga
- The NZCA previously suggested an additional policy to ensure the conservation status of indigenous species remains a key part of decision-making around indigenous biodiversity protection and management. It was proposed that a policy be included that identifies and considers the conservation status of terrestrial and aquatic indigenous species. It is noted that this suggestion is not reflected in the new draft policy, however it is acknowledged that conservation status is relevant to a number of the policies, and to whether an area qualifies as a SNA under Appendix 1, or a Highly Mobile Fauna Area under Appendix 2.
- For the reasons outlined above, although it understands the limited scope of the
NPS-IB, the NZCA notes its concern that section 3.19(7) provides that no species, population, or ecosystem in a coastal marine or aquatic environment can be determined to be taonga under section 3.19. Allowing for identification and protection of taonga species in the coastal marine and freshwater areas should form part of any indigenous biodiversity-related policy or legislation that is developed.
- The NZCA continues to emphasise that a large proportion of New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity is located in a range of wetlands, waterbodies and aquatic environments, and a national policy statement such as this needs to provide the proper amount of consideration to these areas, in identifying them as taonga and locations of biodiversity importance.
Managing adverse effects on biodiversity from activities
- The NZCA previously expressed concern about the concept and definition of a biodiversity offset, further stating that a more forward-thinking approach needs to be adopted which emphasises the potential future roles of habitats in terms of their connectivity.
- Whilst the NZCA still holds some concern with this concept, there is some assurance that this can only occur in specific and appropriate circumstances. Appendix 3 of the new draft policy specifies that offsetting cannot occur where biodiversity values are adversely affected or will be permanently lost. This is strongly supported. The NZCA considers this ‘limit’, and the others it sits with, should be located up front in the effects management hierarchy concept or in a policy, so that it is clear offsetting options (and compensation) are not available to be used in these situations, and the relevant residual adverse effects are not allowed.
- The NZCA suggest ensuring that protection is available for important pockets of indigenous biodiversity that create ecological corridors and connections between ecosystems and habitats.
Restoration and enhancement of biodiversity
- The NZCA previously submitted that the draft policy requires reinforcement of the interactions between terrestrial and aquatic indigenous biodiversity, stating that this will result in a strengthened connection between NPS-IB and the NPSFM.
- It is disappointing that this suggestion was not considered and the NZCA further emphasises the need to include freshwater and estuarine ecosystems and their riparian margins, as part of restoration of indigenous biodiversity.
Monitoring and implementation
- The NZCA supports the integrated approach of implementing a mountain to sea method under section 3.4(1)(a), in an effort to recognise the interactions between the terrestrial environments, freshwater, and the coastal marine areas. The NZCA strongly supports this approach and emphasises the need for it to be extensively incorporated throughout the policy.
- The NZCA notes that the conservation status of indigenous species should be specified as a key element of the integrated The NZCA submits that an addition to the NPS-IB 3.4(1)(c) is required, to account for the conservation status of species; this could read:
c) considering the requirements of strategies and other planning tools required or provided for in legislation and relevant to indigenous biodiversity, including the conservation status of terrestrial and aquatic indigenous species.
- Achieving integration with conservation legislation (and the Strategies and Plans flowing from legislation) is particularly important for achieving the objectives of the NPS-IB and could be attained more effectively and efficiently by encouraging delegation of functions to regional councils.
- In its previous submission the NZCA submitted that it strongly advocates for a monitoring regime and framework that is determined at the national level. The NZCA again emphasises the need to gather data in a consistent way around the country, and to develop a core set of environmental indicators. This national measurement system must have clarity and deadlines in order to ensure quick implementation and ongoing accountability. The NZCA submits that a national measurement system must be introduced and implemented with strict deadlines in order to adequately develop a core set of environmental indicators, monitor progress, and enact accountability.
- The NZCA notes that the Biodiversity Collaborative Group suggested (after receiving extensive input from central government agencies, councils, and ecologists) rolling out a Tier 1 and Tier 2 monitoring framework across the country. The draft implementation plan and proposed implementation pilots do not include this as a key action. The NZCA submits that this two-Tier framework should be included, or an equivalent that is appropriate for national application.
- The NZCA submits that central government resourcing will be required to achieve the objectives of the NPS-IB, irrespective of the financial position of the smaller councils.