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Government seeks feedback on biodiversity strategy

The government is seeking consultation on a proposed 20-year biodiversity plan, updating the previous strategy from 2002.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The plan aims to support the goal of increasing the populations of all threatened flora and fauna by 2050.

The new strategy sets goals for the next 50 years, emphasising habitat restoration and getting rid of invasive predators. It envisions all native species, habitats and ecosystems will be increasing, rather than declining by 2070.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said New Zealand had 4000 native species that were threatened or at risk, and had already lost countless species to extinction - including more than 50 kinds of native bird.

She cited 'significant successes' from investments into species recovery plans, including population increases for rowi kiwi and 19 other birds as evidence that such biodiversity loss could be prevented.

Ms Sage said the strategy relied on collaboration across local and central government and communities, and so would need buy-in from everyone across the country.

"We've got an economy that depends on nature, for tourism, for farming, for our food and fibre exports. It's essential to our wellbeing as individuals and as a people. We must do better at healing and restoring it."

The plan released was a discussion document and Ms Sage said she wanted New Zealanders to be part of the conversation.

A National Policy Statement on indigenous biodiversity was also being created, she said.

Kevin Hackwell. Photo: NZ Forest and Bird

Forest and Bird chief conservation adviser Kevin Hackwell said New Zealand's biodiversity was facing a crisis.

"We've had fine words in the past, we had the original strategy back in 2000, there was some great stuff in that strategy. If we'd had the system shift back then, we wouldn't be in the crisis we are in today.

"Now's our opportunity."

Mr Hackwell said central and local government and communities needed to be empowered to do the job.

The strategy also discussed reducing the bycatch of sea-birds, coral, and marine mammals to zero.

Mr Hackwell said the fishing industry was still resisting systemic change, but it would happen eventually.

"The reality sinks in that actually it's worth the while for them and they want to do if they want to be sustainable into the future they've got to look after nature too, nature will then look after them.

"I think a lot of fisherman are starting to realise that when you have your stocks plummeting, you can't make any money if you don't have anything to catch."

Ms Sage agreed the marine space held the greatest challenge.

"We've got so many of our seabirds at risk of extinction because of bycatch because of changes in sea temperature, and not having the fish they need to feed on."

Conservation ecologist Bill Lee said he would've like to see more detail on what needed to be done over the next 10 years to save indigenous biodiversity.

"It would just help community groups, regional government and also national government settle around a few objectives that we are prioritising over the next decade."

Public consultation will involve workshops and online submissions on the strategy's discussion document until 22 September.

Strategy goals

By 2025:

• No further decline in the number and extent of coastal and freshwater wetlands

• All areas of significant biodiversity on land mapped and protected

• Marine ecosystems mapped and evidence-based priorities for protection and management established

• All predators and non-indigenous browsers eradicated from all offshore island nature reserves and other priority biodiversity hotspots

• Threats from climate change comprehensively integrated into species management plans and strategies

• Tangata whenua meaningfully engaged by government in decision-making about the whenua, awa and moana with which they associate

• Tikanga concepts applied widely in biodiversity management

• A complete network of biodiversity hubs across New Zealand

By 2030:

• No net loss of extent of rare and naturally uncommon terrestrial indigenous habitat (active sand dunes, braided riverbeds, estuaries, cloud forests etc)

• Ten key freshwater pest species and ten key land-based weed species are reduced or controlled to a level that does not diminish ecological integrity

• Marine Protected Areas established in priority areas, and priority risks being actively managed. Indicators are demonstrating positive changes

• New Zealand acknowledged internationally as a source of biodiversity protection and restoration know-how

• Plans identify mahinga kai species and put in place management to enable cultural take

• Large-scale planning and action being undertaken for large geographical areas (e.g. over 500,000 hectares) in high priority places

• Achieving biodiversity outcomes is a part of standard farming practice

By 2050:

• Overall, the net extent of indigenous ecosystems is increasing

• The extent of undegraded rare and naturally uncommon terrestrial indigenous habitat (active sand dunes, braided riverbeds, estuaries, cloud forests etc.) is increasing

• The number and extent of freshwater and coastal wetlands is increasing

• Ten key freshwater pest species and ten key land-based weed species have been eradicated

• Aotearoa New Zealand is free from stoats, possums and rats

• All established pests are reduced to the level where ecological integrity is not diminishing

• Populations are increasing for all our threatened species

• Bycatch of seabirds, corals, and marine mammals is reduced to zero

• Mahinga kai, cultural take and sustainable use of our indigenous species is taking place

• Every business is helping to restore nature

Strategy's first steps

The discussion document also sets out "an initial list of actions to get things started.

First year:

• Establish an interim governance structure to oversee the new biodiversity strategy's implementation planning the delivery of a National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity to regulate the way biodiversity is managed on land through council plans and resource consent decisions

• Deliver freshwater policy reform that will provide benefits to freshwater biodiversity.

• Agencies to work with Treaty partners to improve management of iwi conservation rights and interests

• Ensure Māori hold key roles in newly established biodiversity system governance structures

• Implement a consistent national approach to rates relief for covenanted and other protected private land

• Deliver freshwater policy reform

• Prioritise and drive research towards biodiversity

First couple of years:

• Deliver the National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity

• Review system responsibilities, governance, leadership and statutory roles and responsibilities to ensure these are fit for purpose. Implement the recommendations of this review. At a national level this will include regular reporting, an independent audit of progress against the strategy, and independent advice on the key actions to be taken in development of the next round of action planning in 5 years' time

• Community conservation hubs/forums: review current hubs and needs for these. If required, establish a national support system for coordination and oversight

• Assess the approach to funding for community conservation

• Review current tools for providing best practice information and advice, and whether to set up a new online portal

• Develop a communications strategy and advocacy programme informed by research and kaitiakitanga

• Implement the Environmental Education for Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan

• Assess potential tools to incentivise protection and restoration of resources

• Scale up programmes for privately protected areas

• Establish landscape-scale projects to defend against predator reinvasion

• Implement strategic plan for Predator Free 2050, including regional planning

• Undertake national climate change adaptation planning

• Strengthen support for development of mātauranga research

• Review biodiversity monitoring systems across central and regional government and iwi/hapū/whānau

• Review DOC and councils' prioritisation, roll out a national prioritisation system

Within first four years:

• Based on the review above, undertake a targeted review of natural resource legislation to ensure it is fit for purpose, enabling, and consistent (Year 3-4)

• Deliver regional biodiversity strategies that are developed or reviewed collaboratively by Regional and Unitary Councils with tangata whenua and their communities

• Review current and future system capability needs and implement a plan to address these

• Expand Māori training programmes including a programme for graduates to join DOC and other organisations

• Review biodiversity legislation to ensure it recognises and provides for kaitiakitanga and mātauranga Māori

• Support Māori to contribute to international conversations and agreements

• Integrate biodiversity management into farm management

• Ensure regional biodiversity strategies include a focus on integrated catchment

• Map marine ecosystems to identify priority threats

• Complete key marine protection initiatives in the Hauraki Gulf, Kermadec Islands and southern South Island

• Ensure the One Billion Trees programme delivers benefits for biodiversity

• Bring together biodiversity data with standards for a common system usable by citizen scientists and tangata whenua

• Review scientific needs for biodiversity

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