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New biodiversity rules receive mixed response

A new package of government policies aiming to protect and restore biodiversity has received mixed reactions, with Greater Wellington Regional Council [GWRC] singing its praises, but Fish and Game New Zealand expressing concern about the implications for farmers.

GWRC Environment Committee Chair Penny Gaylor said the measures, which include clearer rules on protecting biodiversity and tighter requirements for district councils, will assist regional councils across the country in preserving the environment for future generations.

GWRC is committed to protecting biodiversity, Gaylor said, and intends to embrace the government’s announcement that all regional councils will need a biodiversity strategy that prioritises native biodiversity.

For biodiversity to thrive, councils, government agencies, mana whenua, and communities must work together, she said, adding that the council plans to plant 795,000 natives across the region during the 2023 to 2024 planting season.

The announced public consultation on a national biodiversity credit system is a positive step towards supporting landowners in managing their land to benefit wildlife and communities, Gaylor said.

“For a sustainable, nature-rich future, we need a solution that makes it accessible for landowners and farmers to support conservation actively and for mana whenua to exercise kaitiakitanga [guardianship].”

The council is glad that the government is co-funding the development of online information tools so that more people can learn how to protect Aotearoa’s natural taonga [treasures], Gaylor said.

“When we come together to protect New Zealand’s biodiversity, the benefits will be felt by generations to come.”

Although GWRC has sung the praises of the policies, Fish and Game has criticised them as “complex and contradictory”.

Fish and Game chief executive Corina Jordan said that one of the policies – the National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity [NPSIB] – will penalise landowners who have “done the right thing and protected and enhanced the biodiversity on their land”.

While there are provisions to help restore and increase indigenous vegetation in natural inland wetlands, Jordan said, the organisation does not believe the NPSIB will “adequately support catchment communities and farmers wanting to protect existing wetlands and those who want to create wetlands”.

“This policy does not meet our aspirations for a constructive approach where all New Zealanders are empowered to integrate biodiversity within their landscapes and restore biodiversity where it’s been lost.”

Jordan said the NPSIB fails to recognise the creation of habitats for valued introduced species, such as wetlands for gamebird hunting.

Public consultation on biodiversity credits will run until November 3.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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