Farmer organisations have fundamental issues with the draft National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (NPSIB), mainly the sweeping nature of the Significant Natural Areas (SNA) designation.
The draft was released by the Ministry for the Environment and the Department of Conservation in June. Submissions closed on July 21 and have been released.
In their submissions, Federated Farmers and Beef+Lamb New Zealand said that all areas of indigenous biodiversity on farms could potentially be classified SNA and that would cause uncertainty, erode farmer confidence and likely affect their wellbeing.
“The SNA criteria are flawed and would capture most if not all indigenous biodiversity, which is contrary to the stated intent,” Federated Farmers said.
Practical concerns include access to experts, delays and costs. Therefore the draft NPSIB legislation fails on the grounds of workability, it said.
The proposed package of financial incentives and support is wholly inadequate, it said, and misses a real opportunity to incentivise the protection of existing biodiversity.
“Success in biodiversity will largely come because of support, partnerships, collaboration and improved information and monitoring.
“An overly restrictive, or pecuniary, regulatory framework risks disincentivising restoration or enhancement, and deterring of the voluntary involvement of farmers in working with councils or providing information.”
B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor said farmers have put in huge effort to protect and enhance native diversity and the proposed legislation risks slowing that momentum and disengaging farmers from the Government’s goals.
The area of biodiversity on sheep and beef farms is second only to the conservation estate, and therefore the NPSIB has huge implications for farmers.
“We have significant concerns about the policy around existing use, which is currently unclear in the legislation,” B+LNZ said.
“The NPSIB must clearly articulate the ability for existing pastoral use to continue and provide for flexibility within farming systems in relation to existing use.
“Farmers are justifiably concerned about the very real prospect that they will inadvertently be penalised for their hard work planting and protecting areas of native biodiversity when they’re no longer able to make decisions about the ongoing use of those areas.”
McIvor said it was critical that landowners are involved from the start in the SNA identification process, and that SNAs are ground-truthed before being included in planning maps.
B+LNZ and its co-submitter, Deer Industry New Zealand, called for only the most or truly significant areas to be designated SNAs.
The NPSIB proposal doesn’t sit well with other policies affecting land use and farming such as climate and freshwater policy, it said, and doesn’t promote the integrated management of biodiversity within farming systems.
“Environmental policies need to be considered as an interconnected whole,” Deer Industry and B+LNZ submitted.
Action taken in one area can have an impact elsewhere in complex farming systems and farmers could get tied up in trying to meet a raft of separate requirements.
One the other hand, the Environmental Defence Society said it believes the definition of SNAs is too narrow and it wants a high and medium classification introduced.
EDS pointed out that the draft NPSIB arose out of a working group with Federated Farmers, Forest Owners, Forest & Bird and the Iwi Chairs’ Forum and the pathway to legislation started years back under a National Government.
Submissions and feedback will now be analysed by officials and a report made to Associate Minister for the Environment (Biodiversity) James Shaw before the finalised policy goes to Cabinet.