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Forest & Bird Supports Primary Sector Vision

Forest & Bird welcomes a new sustainable vision for the primary sector, but says it needs to be backed up with strong rules, meaningful support, and a change of attitude from industry laggards.

The Government has released a report outlining a new vision from the Primary Sector Council committing to "meeting the greatest challenge humanity faces: rapidly moving to a low carbon emissions society, restoring the health of our water, reversing the decline in biodiversity and at the same time, feeding our people."

Forest & Bird CE Kevin Hague says “It’s great to see a commitment to cameras on boats, a desire to boost regenerative agriculture, and a commitment to reduce emissions from dairy farming. This vision clearly identifies Te Taiao as the basis for a healthy economy. 

“New Zealanders need nature but nature needs us to look after it, and this plan is an excellent start in recognising this fundamental truth.”

“Transforming the way we do farming, forestry, and fishing will require a major shift in primary sector behaviour. In the past couple of years we have seen primary sector campaigns against rules to protect significant natural areas on private land, and to improve water quality. We have seen resistance to cameras on boats and complete hostility towards marine reserves and more effective regulation of fishing. All too often, Forest & Bird has had to fall back on the Environment Court to protect nature. 

“When the fishing industry is facing the possibility of a United States trade ban because of concerns about the critically endangered Māui dolphin, it’s time to act,” says Mr Hague.

Recent State of the Environment reports from Statistics New Zealand and the Ministry for the Environment have highlighted the serious decline in our natural environment from the impact of the primary sector. These impacts include:

  • Up to 95% of rivers in developed areas are polluted.
  • Irrigated land has increased by 100% in only 15 years, and is the single biggest water user in the country, accounting for nearly half of all water taken out of the ecosystem.
  • Climate change is going to cause more frequent and longer droughts. Already, soils at one-quarter of monitored sites are drying out.
  • Less than 0.5% of New Zealand's oceans are protected in full marine reserves.
  • And from Land Care Research – thirteen out of fourteen native habitats are shrinking in size.

“Those in industry that won’t change need strong rules and enforcement; those at the other end of the spectrum need encouragement and assistance, and the bulk of people in the middle need technical and financial assistance to make change. When all three elements are in place we can make fast positive change that can protect and restore nature as well as strengthening the value of our international brands,” says Mr Hague. 

“Forest & Bird welcomes any opportunity to work with the primary sector to turn around its environmental impact but will want to see accountability with the results measured on the ground and on the water.”


Forest & Bird has been calling for a transformation of the primary sector as part of New Zealand’s COVID recovery – you can download a Recovery for People and Planet here.

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