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NZ takes one more step toward complete biodiversity loss

Written By: - Date published: 9:55 am, February 1st, 2011 - 13 comments
Categories: Conservation, Environment - Tags: ,

In a poor attempt to make it look like NACT are actually doing something about New Zealand’s incredibly high rate of bio-diversity loss , and warnings that our forests will soon be silent Nick Smith has introduced a National Policy Statement on Biodiversity whilst NACT also announces further cuts in conservation funding .

Having had a quick look over the proposed NPS: Biodiversity, there are two things which I think it fails miserably on.

The first, is a complete lack of vision to address what many people consider one of New Zealand’s defining environmental challenges: the continuing loss of our biodiversity. This lack of any vision for a better environment for our grand-children is summarised well by the proposed NPS objective, which is to:

To promote the maintenance of indigenous biological diversity by protecting areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna, and to encourage protection and enhancement of biodiversity values more broadly while:

• supporting best practice of local authorities

• recognising the positive contribution of landowners as guardians/kaitiaki of their land

• recognising that the economic, social and cultural well-being of people and communities depends on, amongst other things, making reasonable use of land.

So the NPS does not seek to ‘restore’ biodiversity, ‘avoid the further loss of biodiversity’, or even ‘ensure the retention of New Zealand’s biodiversity’ it seeks to ‘promote the maintenance’ of biodiversity by protecting areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats (most of which are probably already protected by the DOC estate or Reserves Act), and ‘encourage protection’ of broader biodiversity values.

This second part wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t then completely watered down by bullet points two and three that: ‘recognise the positive contribution of landowners’ – even if this ‘positive’ contribution is to clear regenerating scrub and to plant pest trees with pretty flowers to attract birds? And ‘recognising that the … well-being of people depends on … making reasonable use of land’ – well, I guess that means if some regenerating bush, or a lake get in the way of a dairy farm well, that would be pretty darn unreasonable wouldn’t it? Another frustrating part is that many of these broader biodiversity values that were within urban environments used to be protected, until NACT removed the ability of local government to protect trees in urban areas in the 2009 RMAA.

The second issue is more of a constitutional/process matter. At the time that the 2009 RMA amendments, some people were concerned that the Minister for the Environment had the ability to make national policy by decree, rather than through a committee or board of inquiry process. This has been confirmed by this proposed NPS. The cabinet paper introducing the NPS ( refer p.10 ) makes it clear that the minister will use his new powers to avoid any public hearing of the proposed NPS and make the decision on the final NPS himself. Essentially, the following will happen: People make submissions in writing, these are reviewed by Ministry for the Environment staff, a recommendation is made to the minister, the minister decides whatever he likes, and we have a new NPS. I’m sure that if Muldoon were still around he would be very proud of the Nats taking power back to the executive!

The loss of our biodiversity is a serious challenge to all of New Zealand. Weak policy that lacks vision, together with cut backs to the ability of local government to protect important habitat and reduced conservation funding, is not going to ensure that future generations can enjoy the bush that Nick Smith was able to enjoy while he was growing up.

13 comments on “NZ takes one more step toward complete biodiversity loss ”

  1. Nick C 1

    Oh come on this post is just some rather pathetic quibiling over wording (when its pretty obvious your real problem is that you just dont like National). Pretty much any document of this type which intends to set a policy direction will address and recognise competing rights. Here they are recognising the competing property rights of land owners.

    I agree that the real test will be whether they act on the statement, but you have to commend them for showing intent.

    Can you please link to the policy statement on biodiversity that labour produced so we can compare the two….. Oh wait, Labour never produced one.

    • jimmy 1.1

      Oh wait… here you go


      Even though both you and I know you dont give a shit about facts, try page two.

      • Nick C 1.1.1

        Agh well thats the last time I make assumptions based on what Nick Smith says on his FB page 😛

        • Deadly_NZ

          Then it’s your own fault for.

          1 Believing ANYTHING that Nick Smith says.
          2 For using Farcebook as a serious place for Political comment.

          • Bored

            Its just as well for Nick C that the policy does not apply to him…..he too would be facing extinction. Could we add him to the list and get him to report how it goes?

    • James Henderson 1.2

      Policy is all about wording. Strong wording = setting a clear direction. The proposed NPS does not seek to redress the massive biodiversity loss that NZ has experienced, rather it seeks to maintain what’s left (i.e. not improve it) as long as that doesn’t mess with other potential uses of land. My point is that if biodiversity loss were a significant issue for this Government, it would be setting a clear and strong directive. Rather it isn’t sending a strong and clear message to improve biodiversity, and it’s other hand is withdrawing the funding and tools (i.e. urban vegetation protection) to achieve it.

      The proposed NPS is meant to be about biodiversity, other legal aspects – such as natural justice and the RMA – already recognise competing demands for land and private property rights. The intent of an NPS is to balance or enhance the consideration of a ‘national issue’ against such competing interests.

      Labour got as far as a proposed NPS on biodiversity, which was criticised as being too weak as well, and a Biodiveristy strategy, which could be considered to be a very small start on the issue. My post isn’t suggesting that labour was any better on this issue.

      I guess the best way to test this is to ask: what difference is this NPS going to make? I would suggest none as most regional and district Council policy (and section 6 of the RMA) already has stronger wording/direction than this NPS.

  2. MrSmith 2

    Nothing but Dog whistling from Smith and expect a lot more of this kind of toothless dribble right up to the election.

  3. Will be interesting to see what Labour Party conservation policy is. Personally I think one of the West Auckland MPs should get the conservation portfolio and build a good working relationship with the Greens conservation spokersperson.

    I wonder is National will do anything about this:

    Mining already enjoys a special status above that of other commercial activities on conservation land. http://www.pce.parliament.nz/publications/all-publications/making-difficult-decisions-mining-the-conservation-estate/ – PCE ()report on mining conservation land.
    report includes:
    # Mines on ecological areas

    # Mining conservation land report

    # Ecological areas list

    # Mining operations on Department of Conservation land

    It is also worth asking the Green and Labour responses to Department of Conservation Director General Al Morrison’s hard hitting speech last year:

    was it a call for conservation bottom lines and a prioritisation to make conservation a core issue, or a call for the comercialisation of the conservation estate by a undefunded cash strapped department at the mercy of mining companies and the like…

    Morrison says that “for all our exaltations, we keep on trashing the place”. He points to biodiversity loss: “That we are relatively Clean and Green and 100 Percent Pure, is little credit to our deliberate efforts. The brand is largely available to us because we have had relatively little time and few people … But we are as guilty as any party of depleting and degrading our natural capital.”

    The speech wasn’t just about halting biodiversity decline, though. It was about funding conservation.

    So, will he make the estate work harder for its keep, by inviting more business on to it, to generate funding?

    Ironically, that sounds more like the old mindset, than a new one, where the intrinsic value of conservation’s ecosystem services and other services is ignored, or not given much weight….

  4. randal 4

    in the immortal words of that arch right winger ronald raygun,” if you have seen one redwood then you have seen them all”.
    waste em.
    as long as there is money in it then chop it down.

  5. A goal of the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy, written a decade ago, was to halt the decline in the country’s indigenous biodiversity, he said. But Landcare Research’s annual report, presented to Parliament this year, said intensive farming was destroying native plants at the fastest rate since European colonisation. A study last month found more freshwater fish species than ever were under threat.


    DoC head honcho spelled out very clearly last year the state of the environment in New Zealand…

    Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said Morrison’s speech was “brave” and challenged the Government’s “extractive” economic development strategy.

    Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson said his views were similar to Morrison’s.

    “Everywhere in the Western world we use the land, sea and the view for 100 per cent of the basis of everything to do with the economy.” He questioned whether humans had gone too far.

  6. Rosy 6

    “The cabinet paper introducing the NPS ( refer p.10 ) makes it clear that the minister will use his new powers to avoid any public hearing of the proposed NPS and make the decision on the final NPS himself”.

    Apart from DOC having to gut services, look to the private sector for profits to carry out its work this section really bothers me. We’re losing our democratic rights. Another in a already long list given that Nact haven’t even finished their 1st term in office… and labout lost support over light directing people’s choice of light bulbs!

    As as for accepting landowners are by right the protectors of diversity, pfft! – Is ‘substantial’ defined anywhere? How is ‘reasonable’ defined given that it has to be weighed up against economic well-being? This is not about improving biodiversity, it’s about recognising there is a problem but making sure it does not affect people’s rights to do what they wish on their own land and making sure it does not get in the way of economic development.

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