Modernising conservation law to better reflect today’s thinking

  • Out-dated Wildlife Act to be reviewed
  • Steps to improve conservation management planning and processes 
  • Trade in Endangered Species Act to be modernised 

The Government is stepping up work to address long-standing problems in conservation law while laying the foundations for future reform, Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says.

“More than 4000 native species are threatened or at risk of extinction. We are at a defining moment for nature, yet much of our legislation is decades old and not fit for purpose,” Conservation Minister Kiri Allan said.

“It is a complex web of 24 Acts, developed largely on an ad-hoc basis over a span of nearly 70 years. Over this time our scientific understanding of species and ecosystems has grown considerably, but this is not reflected in the legislation”

Releasing a roadmap that sets out the work ahead in the next four years to modernise conservation law, Kiri Allan said better legislation would equip us with the tools to deal with some of the biggest emerging threats to biodiversity today - invasive species, climate change, habitat loss, pollution, and fragmentation of landscapes and ecosystems.

“This work is a step towards addressing ambiguity and deficiencies in current legislation, much of which is older than I am and doesn’t reflect the massive shift in how we think, and care, about the environment we all share,” Kiri Allan said. 

“We are launching a review of the Wildlife Act – which is over 60 years old and is often unclear and difficult to implement. It doesn’t do a good job when it comes to protecting some endangered species.For example, DOC recently found itself limited in its ability to require relocation of pekapeka (long-tailed bats) living in trees that are in the route of a new motorway. 

“It could only consider an application from a developer or Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency to accidentally kill protected wildlife in the construction process. An application to proactively handle and relocate the bats – our Bird of the Year – could not be granted.

“The Act also needs to better address opportunities and challenges for customary rights and recognising mātauranga Māori, rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga.

“Alongside work on the Wildlife Act, we are also preparing for more substantial reform down the track, with DOC looking at the full suite of conservation law and how it currently functions.

“In the meantime, we can start making improvements now to help relieve the pressure on DOC’s concessions and management planning systems. Tensions are constantly felt around key plans like the Fiordland National Park Management Plan. Part of that tension is because guidance or limits on specific activities like aircraft landings cannot be easily reviewed and updated. 

“Conservation planning and permitting decisions often don’t – or can’t – reflect what local communities want, or the latest environmental science. The current system isn’t fully facilitating the activities we want to enjoy, like mountain biking, or the scientific research we need to address the biodiversity crisis.

“Alleviating some of those pressures and frustrations by simplifying the processes for concessions and other permits for researchers, tourism operators and other businesses is a much-needed fix.”

Other work is already underway to improve processes for stewardship land review and reclassification, increase marine protection for the Hauraki Gulf and consider wider marine protection reform, and improve the Trade in Endangered Species Act 1989. 

“Ensuring that conservation legislation is up to date, enduring and reflective of our values is vital if we want the next generation to enjoy the special place we call home,” Kiri Allan said. 

The conservation law reform roadmap signals upcoming engagement opportunities, and will be regularly updated as projects are progressed: www.doc.govt.nz/conservation-law-reform