Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Government launches native biodiversity protections package

The Government has today announced a suite of measures to protect native wildlife and at-risk habitats.

Associate Minister for the Environment, James Shaw says the package includes a consultation on new ways to fund long-term conservation via a biodiversity credit system, a clearer set of requirements for councils to protect areas of significant biodiversity, innovation pilots, regional biodiversity coordinators, and the development of a digital information platform.   

“Aotearoa is home to natural taonga found nowhere else on earth. While some native species’ populations are improving, many are in decline. Reversing this decline and making sure our native plants and animals are healthy and resilient is a priority for our Government,” said Associate Minister Shaw.

“Sixty three percent of our native ecosystems are now threatened, and a third of our native species are threatened or at risk of extinction. It’s time we find new ways to incentivise conservation, protect our precious wildlife, and provide clearer guidance on how to identify, manage and protect biodiversity.”

Biodiversity credits

A biodiversity credit system can help to protect important habitats and species by providing financial incentives to manage land in a way that benefits both wildlife and local communities.

By purchasing credits, people and philanthropic organisations can finance and actively support ‘nature-positive’ actions on public and private land, including whenua Māori.

“Landowners, land managers, farmers, and Maōri should be looking at their wild spaces as a taonga, but also as a valuable source of supplementary income. This can then be used to support on-the-ground conservation, like reforestation, wetland restoration, or planting native vegetation,” Mr Shaw said.

A discussion document for public consultation has been released today asking:

  • How a biodiversity credit system could be set up;
  • What role the Government should play in it.

“It’s time we make it simpler and more cost-effective for landowners and tangata whenua to support conservation on their land. Threats to our native species include habitat loss, exotic pests, splintered conservation protection efforts, and a changing climate.”

“We know biodiversity credit systems are being developed overseas, but it’s important we find a path that is right for Aotearoa New Zealand,” said Mr Shaw.

Minister of Conservation, Willow-Jean Prime is encouraging New Zealanders to submit their thoughts through the discussion document process, “on the potential for a biodiversity credit system in Aotearoa New Zealand, and their whakaaro on what are the key aspects for ensuring such a system will work for all”.

The consultation runs until 3 November.

The National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity

Clearer direction on how to identify, manage and protect areas of significant biodiversity will be phased in over several years, from 4 August.

All regional councils will need a regional biodiversity strategy with native biodiversity/nature priorities – previously only a few had this. 

“There’s been a requirement on councils for 30 years to take care of important wildlife habitats, but it’s had no definition and no support. We are changing that,” Mr Shaw said.

“Existing activities, such as grazing, can continue provided their effects remain at the same level and don’t increase the loss of native plants or animals in a significant natural area.

“We are also mindful that Māori land is home to a significant amount of indigenous vegetation, so we have created a tailored approach. This will prevent Māori land from being excessively affected by the NPSIB and will allow Māori to meet their aspirations for the use of their land and care for the environment.

“The Government is also co-funding a series of pilot projects to help improve regional coordination of conservation efforts, develop online information tools, as well as the use of new technologies like drones to aid seed dispersal.

“With the right resources, expertise, and coordination, we know biodiversity projects succeed. When communities, landowners, Māori, government agencies, and businesses band together, the results are astounding.

“We’ve taken kiwi, kaka, tuatara and many other species from the brink of extinction through our efforts. I’m confident we can do far more through this work. When we act, nature responds,” he said. 

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