Friday, July 1, 2022

Sector calls for pause on biodiversity plan

Neal Wallace

Farming groups are asking the Government to pause or at least extend consultation on new biodiversity standards, saying the sector is being swamped with new environment-related legislation.

Beef + Lamb NZ says it has concerns with the recently released exposure draft for the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (NPSIB) and says few of the changes it has sought have been included.

“We have serious concerns over the criteria for determining Significant Natural Areas (SNAs) and the areas this would include,” chairman Andrew Morrison says.

The criteria for identifying an SNA remains too broad and will capture significant areas of sheep and beef farms.

“We previously advocated for the definition to be narrowed to identify habitats that are threatened, at risk, or rare as SNAs.

“Our proposed definition is already used by some councils and has been working well.”

Morrison says owners of land classified as an SNA will be restricted on their ability to undertake new or modified activities.

“In some cases, the activity may not be able to occur, in others it may be granted via a resource consent process which involves an ecological assessment.”

The disclosure document says it has responded to feedback by ensuring economic activities such as farming, forestry, infrastructure and energy can continue.

On pastoral farmed areas identified as SNAs, the document states farming can continue but councils need to work with landholders to advise and support them on how to best manage those areas.

“Where maintenance of improved pasture is required, it will be able to continue within some parameters.”

These parameters were not stated.

Productive plantation forests with identified areas of SNAs must be managed over consecutive rotations so threatened or at-risk species are maintained.

In 2014, there were 71 identified rare ecosystems, with 45 of them threatened with collapse. 

Wetlands are now only about 10% of their pre-human extent.

The NPSIB attracted 7000 submissions with the majority in support of the intent, specifically to help address the decline in indigenous biodiversity and clarify council responsibilities for protecting areas and habitats of significant indigenous vegetation.

The document acknowledges the policy will impact the management of biodiversity on private and publicly-owned land.

“Much of NZ’s indigenous biodiversity is on privately owned and managed land.

“This includes ecosystems that are poorly, if at all, represented within public conservation land, such as lowland ecosystems.”

Councils will be required “to consistently identify areas with significant vegetation and habitats of significant indigenous fauna”, which will have to be managed and protected through regional and district plans.

“The intent of these provisions is not to identify all indigenous biodiversity, but to ensure the indigenous biodiversity that is most significant and precious is identified and protected.”

Councils and ecologists working with landowners will identify SNAs and councils will need to be transparent and clear about how this information will used.

The document states the intent is not to stop any new development from occurring, but ensure new uses and developments avoid and manage any adverse effects on significant indigenous biodiversity.

By 2027 territorial authorities will have had to identify, map and notify SNAs in their region.

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