Collaborative group to improve nature protection

  • Nick Smith

A new collaborative group involving environmental and landowner organisations has come together to improve national policy on protecting nature on private land, Environment Minister Nick Smith announced today at the Environmental Defence Society’s ‘Wild Places’ conference in Auckland.

“New Zealand is globally recognised as a hotspot environmentally for the loss of unique species. One of the most challenging issues for councils and communities is improving the protection of our native species on private land while respecting the reasonable rights of owners to use their land for farming, forestry and other economic activities. This initiative is about bringing environmental groups and landowners together to develop clearer national policy on protecting the plants and animals that make New Zealand special.”

The core group leading the development of a National Policy Statement (NPS) on Biodiversity includes representatives from Forest & Bird, Federated Farmers, the Environmental Defence Society and the Forest Owners’ Association. Iwi will be included as Treaty partners. Local government will play a key part as active observers, similar to their work with the Land and Water Forum, to ensure the group’s recommendations are workable and effective. 

“Resolving the tension between the reasonable rights of landowners to use their land and the wider public interest of protecting New Zealand’s native plants and animals is difficult territory. It is why previous governments have not been successful in producing an NPS on Biodiversity.  I am hugely encouraged by the goodwill of the key stakeholders that have agreed to come together to develop a more consistent and effective approach.

“This innovative approach to policy development has proved its success with the Land and Water Forum, which came about at the EDS’s 2008 conference and which has enabled significant improvements in freshwater policy. This similar approach is possible because of the willingness and ambition of farmers, foresters, environmentalists and iwi to work together on improving how the Resource Management Act is applied in protecting our biodiversity on private land.

“This initiative is consistent with the Government’s wider environmental programme. A key part of making the Resource Management Act work better is greater use of national direction through the use of National Environmental Standards and National Policy Statements. We are stepping up New Zealand’s efforts to protect our native plants and animals with the Department of Conservation’s Battle for our Birds, War on Weeds and Predator Free New Zealand initiatives. Our Bluegreen approach is about a more collaborative way of resolving environmental problems by encouraging and funding diverse groups to work together on finding solutions that benefit both the economy and the environment.”

“The work of this Biodiversity Forum will begin this year with the ambition of completing a NPS by mid-2018.”