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Sandra Lee Conservation Board chair people speech

Hon. Sandra Lee
Thursday 12 October 2000 Media Statement

Keynote address to meeting of Conservation Board chair people
Abel Tasman Hotel, Cnr Willis & Dixon Streets, Wellington

I am delighted to meet with so many conservation leaders.

I understand that for all but four of you, this is your first national chairpersons' conference.

I am sure you will take the opportunity to discuss common issues of benefit to the work of your boards.

I also want to pay tribute to the conservation board chair people and board members who have retired this year, and publicly thank them for all their efforts on behalf of conservation in New Zealand.

You can not help but have noticed in recent months that the activity in your conservancy has stepped up a few notches. This is a direct consequence of the launching of the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy in March, and the announcement in the June budget of $187m of new funding to implement the strategy over the next five years.

Each of the 13-conservancies has spent the past few months working to identify priority projects in order to secure part of this national funding for local use, and you may have noticed there have been announcements in the media in recent weeks about some of the approved projects.

Formalised community involvement—your involvement—in the management of public conservation responsibilities is a long tradition in this country, stretching back decades.

It is very important to have that link.

It is very important that conservation boards provide the community perspective to the conservator.

It is also very important that the conservators listen to and consider that advice.

The prime document on the relationship between the conservator and his or her conservation board is the Conservation Management Strategy, the "CMS".
Each of the strategies implements general policies and establishes the objectives for integrated management by the department.

The CMS is the umbrella under which the annual work programs of each conservancy should fall.

If new responsibilities arise which were not anticipated when the CMS was developed, there are amendment procedures that can be triggered to establish objectives to deal with those.

I know that the Department of Conservation has begun policy work to consider whether the current format of the CMS is serving us well. I do not think there is any doubt that Conservation Management Strategies should be retained. Clearly they are a logical expression of the long history of community input into conservation mentioned above. But they do not perhaps stick as closely as they should to what was envisaged by the law-makers. They seem to try to do more than “establish objectives”.

The objectives are crucial. All conservation goals and projects have long-term timeframes. The objectives keep us on course and remind us of the long-term goals as we get buffeted by short-term imperatives, and are lobbied by various interest groups and have our priorities changed, as Governments and staff do.

The change of Government has resulted in a much greater commitment to stemming the decline in our biodiversity, through the adoption earlier this year of the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy.

The Strategy's goals included making progress in marine conservation. The Government’s decision to accept the advice of the parliamentary commissioner for the environment and develop an overarching Oceans Policy is evidence of that.

Fisheries minister Pete Hodgson will have more to say about the new Oceans Policy in a speech he is making today.

However you can not help but notice that the review of the Marine Reserves Act along with the $40.9 million earmarked for marine biodiversity and biosecurity in the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy funding package complement the new Oceans Policy.

I would like to say a few more words about the Marine Reserves Act review.

I launched the review discussion document last week. Three months have been allowed for public submissions which close on 22 December. There will be meetings and hui held to promote discussion of the issues and I urge you to contribute your views to the debate.


I do not believe that the current coverage of marine reserves, which is less than four percent of New Zealand’s territorial sea, reflects the public’s general desire to see our marine environment well protected and its biodiversity enjoyed by future generations.

The discussion paper explores such issues as:

 What the Act should be focusing on;

 Whether or not the Act should protect marine historic heritage as well as natural heritage;

 Whether marine reserves should be strictly no take;

 Whether marine reserves should be better coordinated with other marine management tools such as regional coastal plans;

 What consultation processes should be followed for a proposed reserve;

 How local communities should be involved in the decision-making about and the management of marine reserves;

 How national, local and individual interests should be balanced when the minister considers objections, evaluates an application or decides what can occur in a marine reserve; and

 Whether review mechanisms should be set in place for the status of marine reserves.

It is an important policy topic, and with the strong and diverse views that abound in our nation on this topic I expect the debate will be lively.

But it is a debate we must have. Changes to the Act need to be made, to shift its focus from the narrow field of scientific study to more broadly focussed and modern environmental protection goals.

I also want to touch on the Department of Conservation's involvement in heritage protection beyond the lands and waters it directly administers, and particularly its involvement in resource management act processes.

This is an important area of responsibility, where the Department can positively influence the management of New Zealand's coastal, marine, land, freshwater and historic heritage.

The Department contributes to off-estate heritage protection efforts and initiatives both as an adviser and a participant in local processes.

This work needs to focus on the most important issues using the best tools available.

Some of the important issues include:
 achieving adequate protection for significant indigenous land, freshwater and marine habitats
 preservation of the coastal environment and wetlands, lakes and rivers and their margins; and
 avoiding the impacts of outside activities on already protected areas.
Adequate regard must also be given to the ‘smaller’ processes and issues such as non-notified consent processing.

Individually such issues may not rate as 'nationally' or 'regionally' important, but collectively they can have a significant impact.

Heritage protection methods include encouraging others to act through advice, as well as information and education, and the encouragement of voluntary protection through incentives.

Statutory advocacy in Resource Management Act processes is another very important arm through which the Department can make significant contributions to local processes, including input into district plans and other efforts to work in partnership with local government.

Recognition of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement in regional coastal plans and decisions on restricted coastal activity applications is another important area.

I expect to see the best methods used in pursuit of our most important issues. The method, or combination of methods, selected needs to take into account the local circumstances including the importance of the issue and an assessment of the effectiveness of various methods in that context.

A coordinated approach to this work is essential. The Department of Conservation is preparing a national strategy to guide activity in this area. Such a strategy would complement the Conservation Management Strategies and also reflect the directions contained in the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy.

I will conclude today by noting that it will also need to take into account any decisions made by the Government as a result of the work of the Ministerial Advisory Committee investigating the effects of private land management on indigenous biodiversity.

I wish you well for your meeting and I look forward to receiving a report from my officials on the outcome of your deliberations.

(ENDS)

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