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Proposed National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity

Kevin Hague MP
Kevin Hague MP
kevin [dot] hague [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz (Email)

The date for sending in a submission on this issue has passed.

Submission Guidelines for Proposed National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity

Prepared by Forest & Bird

How to submit

The Government is seeking public input on a proposed National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity. Submissions close at 5pm on 2 May 2011. To make a submission, you can fill in the submission form provided on the Ministry for the Environment website[1] or prepare your submission in a separate document and email it to biodiversity [at] mfe [dot] govt [dot] nz. The Ministry prefers submissions to be provided in electronic form. It is helpful to include evidence, examples and personal experience in your submission.

Discussion

A National Policy Statement (NPS) is a Resource Management Act statutory document that guides Regional and District Councils in how to provide for matters of national importance in their planning and decision-making. RMA planning documents must apply the requirements in an NPS, and resource consent decision-making must consider them. This NPS aims to protect indigenous biodiversity by requiring minimum standards for councils. It would require biodiversity protection in 'significant' places and encourage protection elsewhere. The objective is stated as: "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".

Analysis

There are a number of important issues that the NPS addresses.

1. It acknowledges the need to stop the decline in our indigenous biodiversity

2. It provides a hierarchy of avoid, remedy and mitigate for areas of "significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna" only; not for other areas that contain indigenous biodiversity.

3. It provides a 'bottom line' for ensuring consideration of national priorities for protection

It does not provide direction on how to protect nationally important biodiversity on public conservation land, whereas other National Policy Statements do provide direction about how the RMA should apply to conservation land.

Forest & Bird believes the proposed NPS is deficient in many respects.

1. It lacks vision or urgency. The 2000 NZ Biodiversity Strategy was entitled "Turning the Tide" and we have for years aimed to arrest the decline of biodiversity. This NPS accepts that the status quo is sufficient by having as its main objective "to promote the maintenance of [biodiversity]"

2. It fails to provide comprehensive criteria for assessing "significance" (Policy 2)

3. It fails to adequately include freshwater habitats and species

4. The policies fail to fully provide as much protection for habitats of indigenous fauna as it does for indigenous flora

5. It proposes the use of biodiversity off-setting for significant areas through inclusion in the hierarchy of 'avoid, remedy, mitigate'

6. It is inconsistent with the NZ Coastal Policy Statement in the protection offered to rare and threatened species

7. It's 'bottom line' requirements may become the new standard, and thus reduce the benefits of the work done by many Councils in providing for the identification and protection of significant natural areas

8. It doesn't tackle the negative effects of pests and weeds in any meaningful way

9. Important measures to address biodiversity loss are merely 'encouraged' rather than 'required'

Submission

Forest & Bird encourages individuals to make submissions, with their own backgrounds and experience placed firmly to the fore. One way of completing the submission is to work through the submission form available on the website or on pages 82 - 94 of the section 32 analysis. We would also encourage you to make the following comments:

1. Ask for the Objective to be about maintaining and restoring biodiversity.

2. Ask for Policy 1 to clearly distinguish between significant natural areas (Policy 2) and indigenous flora and fauna that are important to maintain biodiversity (Policy 6).

3. Ask for Policy 2 to include a robust set of criteria for assessing significant natural areas as well as identifying national priorities. This would include the following:

a. Representativeness

i. The extent to which the vegetation/habitat resembles that originally present

b. Rarity and Distinctiveness

i. The presence of threatened or rare species or communities

ii. The presence of locally-endemic species or species at distributional limits

iii. The presence of distinctive species or communities

c. Diversity and Pattern

i. The number of indigenous communities at a site (community diversity)

ii. The number of indigenous species at a site (species richness)

iii. A change in communities or species composition along environmental gradients

d. Ecological Context

i. The provision of habitat for critical life stages of indigenous fauna

ii. The provision of important ecological functions and processes including the protection of adjacent and/or downstream ecological values

4. Forest & Bird seeks that the hierarchy of effects is consistent with the NZ Coastal Policy Statement and ensure no further loss of biodiversity. Although biodiversity offsetting is a mechanism that is increasingly being adopted to deal with the adverse effects on indigenous biodiversity. We think that it is premature to be including offsetting to be introduced into an NPS when the government's own research into the appropriateness of offsetting has yet to be completed.

5. In any case it is an inappropriate tool to use with significant natural areas as these are not able to be replaced (offset). If used at all it should be used very carefully in non-significant areas. It is already able to be provided for under the current regulations. Forest & Bird does not agree that it should form part of the hierarchy of effects management, but should instead continue to be considered as a compensatory measure for residual impacts only. We therefore suggest that Policy 5 should clearly state:

a. Avoidance of adverse effects on areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna; and

b. In relation to all other indigenous flora and fauna:

i. avoiding adverse effects and

ii. where adverse effects cannot be avoided, ensuring remediation and

iii. where adverse effects cannot be remedied, ensuring mitigation and

iv. where adverse effects cannot be mitigated, ensuring any residual adverse effects that are more than minor are offset in accordance with the principles set out in Schedule 2

6. The optional criteria under Policy 6 are not couched in strong enough language to ensure that these important matters are considered or activities undertaken. We suggest a strengthened Policy 6:

a. Decisionmakers must recognise the full range of potential adverse effects including fragmentation, interruption to life-cycles, exposure to pest and animal weeds, and grazing by domesticated animals

b. Decisionmakers must encourage the protection of indigenous vegetation if it provides:

i. habitat for indigenous species

ii. seasonal food sources for indigenous species

iii. ecological linkage between areas and habitats identified in accordance with Policy 4

iv. a buffer to indigenous vegetation for areas and habitats identified in accordance with Policy 4

7. Please discuss from your own professional and personal experience involvement you have had with protecting indigenous biodiversity in your area. The provision of examples to support your submission is very useful and important information.

Thank you for taking the time to complete a submission.

[1] http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/biodiversity/indigenous-biodiversity/index.html

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