Help protect native plants, birds and animals

Girl in nature

In Aotearoa New Zealand we have many native plants, birds and animals that are unique to our country. Some of these, along with their ecosystems, are under threat of extinction. 

The Government sought feedback on its proposal for maintaining and protecting our indigenous biodiversity into the future. The proposal builds on work already underway. 

The consultation closed on 14 March 2020 at 5pm.

Update on the delivery of the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry for the Environment was working towards finalising the policy statement for Ministerial consideration around mid-2020. When New Zealand went into self-isolation, we reprioritised our work programme to free up resources to support the immediate policy response to COVID-19 and the medium-term recovery plan.

Associate Minister for Environment Nanaia Mahuta has now agreed to extend the timeframe of the delivery of the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity to April 2021.

The longer timeframe means the joint project team (Ministry for the Environment and the Department of Conservation) can work on an implementation plan to support the roll-out of the policy statement once it is finalised, at the same time as working to address feedback from consultation.

We will post the key themes from submissions and consultation on our website later in the year. 
 

Review the proposal

The Government is proposing a National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity. This builds on a draft created by the Biodiversity Collaborative Group. It has been developed by the Ministry for the Environment and the Department of Conservation.

Discussion document

Proposed National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity

Indigenous biodiversity on the farm

Find out how Ross and Eleanore Webber are looking after indigenous biodiversity on their farm. The Webber’s are 2019 Regional Supreme winners of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust.

Indigenous biodiversity it’s who we are!

This video describes how many of our native plants and animals are found nowhere else in the world.

[Tairoki Tahau-Hodges]

You know, Aotearoa being isolated from the world for millions of years has its advantages? Like our many unique plants and animals. It’s our indigenous biodiversity, engari he aha tēra? (but what is that?).

[Melanie Mark-Shadbolt, MFE Chief Māori Advisor]

Indigenous biodiversity is all the organisms that make New Zealand special. It’s our ngahere (forests), our waterways, our wetlands, our manu (birds). It’s our taiao (environment).

[Tame Malcolm, Te Tira Whakamātaki]

Koinei Te Wao a Tāne (this is Tane’s forest), these are all of Tane’s children. The plants, the trees, the insects, the birds, they have made us who we are today. They protected out tūpuna (ancestors), they fed our tūpuna, they housed our tūpuna. The manu taught us how to speak and the trees looked after us. That’s why we need to protect them. Without them we’re nothing. Tairoki

Tika (correct). That’s why we need to look after and protect our taonga. Like this Tuatara, isn’t that right Aaria?

[Aaria Donson-Waitere, Zealandia Kaitiaki Ranger]

Āe (yes). Tuatara are what we call ghosts of Gondwana. so they were around at the time of the dinosaurs. In the wetland behind us we have a pair of our Takahē They were thought to be extinct but were rediscovered around 75-years ago. This is the first year that the Takahē populations have reached over 400. Tairoki Indigenous biodiversity. It’s in our backyard. Our playgrounds. It’s all around us. It’s a part of who we are. ENDS

 

Indigenous biodiversity has many benefits

Did you know our native plants and animals can provide us with food and medicine?

[Tairoki Tahu-Hodges]

Indigenous biodiversity, it’s not just about how we protect our native taonga (treasures). It’s about how our native taonga provide for us. Tairoki Like a hīkoi (walk) through the ngahere (forest). Did you know that kawakawa can be used as native tea? Nē rā Mel? (isn’t that right Mel)

[Melanie Mark-Shadbolt, MFE Chief Māori Advisor]

But that’s not all it’s used for. It can also be used as a lip-balm, and can be used on your gums and it’s really good for upset puku (stomachs). Tairoki And then there are our natural fibres, like harakeke (flax).

[Tame Malcolm, Te Tira Whakamātaki]

Āe (yes). It was considered vital to our tūpuna (ancestors) because it not only provided shelter, it also provided clothing. Tairoki Awesome. Tame Over here we have Coprosma. It’s in the same family as coffee. Our tupuna knew this so they used to make an energy drink out of it. Tame This is Tarata or Lemonwood, named so because if you crush the leaves up it smells like lemon. Our tūpuna used to wear this on their wedding night. Tairoki It does smell pretty good though. Might have some for later. Tame And it’s not just rongoā (medicine) there’s also food like pūhā. Tairoki Awesome. I’m going to take this for the boil-up. Tame And here we have a well-known rongoā, Koromiko. You chew on the shoots to help relieve sore stomachs. It’s so famous we used to send it over to our troops in World War 2. Tairoki Indigenous biodiversity. Mīharo! (amazing!).ENDS
What we are hearing from landowners About the Proposal
The Government’s proposed policy to look after our native birds, plants and animals will prevent me from being able to farm.

If some of your land is classified as being a Significant Natural Area, you would still be able to farm as you have been, as long as the impact to biodiversity doesn’t increase over time. 

 

If you want to change the use of your farm in a way that would impact a Significant Natural Area on it, you will need to discuss with your council how the area would need to be managed.

My land has a lot of native birds, plants and animals – will that mean all or a lot of my land will be classified as a Significant Natural Area. 

It is not the intent to classify all indigenous biodiversity (native birds, plants and animals) as significant and of high-value.

 

Protection levels would be tuned so that high-value indigenous biodiversity genuinely means high-value. 

I am concerned my land will depreciate in value if Significant Natural Areas are identified on my land and I will not be able to sell it or use it as leverage for a mortgage.

The intention is not to make land ‘unusable’. It is to ensure that land is used in a way where we don’t risk losing or seriously damaging our unique biodiversity.

 

We have heard that some buyers are actively looking for land with significant biodiversity on it. 

Isn’t this a clever way to grab my land?

No. Private land is not being requisitioned. The requirement to protect natural values on private land currently exists, and many councils are fulfilling their role in protecting these natural values.

 

The proposed policy means that the role of councils in undertaking their responsibilities to protect natural values would be clarified. This would allow for better protection of these values on private land and provide more certainty to communities.

Will you compensate me?

We expect to develop a support package around the proposed policy. Incentives to protect indigenous biodiversity could be a part of implementation – for example, some district councils have rates rebates for property with identified significant natural areas (eg, Kapiti District Council).

 

We welcome your thoughts as part of this consultation.

Who is responsible for managing Significant Natural Areas? Councils or the Government? Councils. They would identify Significant Natural Areas and manage their protection through plans and consent processes under the RMA.
It seems to impose the highest costs and potential restrictions on those that have done the most? How is this fair?

We want to support landowners to look after the indigenous biodiversity (native birds, plants and animals) on their land and find ways that can ensure it is seen as a benefit not a burden. We welcome your thoughts as part of this consultation.

What about public conservation land – why are you focusing on my land? 

Public conservation land is already protected by the Conservation Act, National Parks Act, Reserves Act etc. 

 

Protection on private land under the RMA is not strong enough or clear enough to prevent indigenous biodiversity decline.

I have a small plantation of pine trees I am growing for firewood and posts in a corner of my farm. Bats have now made this their home. Yet I want to chop the trees down.

The trees would need to be milled in a way that maintains the bat population over time. Your local council would help you identify the best management approach. 

 

Note also the National Environment Standard for Plantation Forestry has rules on indigenous biodiversity in plantation forests.

  • We will prepare a report that summarises the submissions and make recommendations based on the submissions. We will work with the Department of Conservation on this.
  • We will seek agreement from Ministers on final policy decisions.