Tighter trade restrictions to support endangered species survival in the wild

The Government has agreed to change the law to help protect more than 35,000 internationally endangered species where unsustainable trade threatens their survival in the wild, Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage announced today.

“The changes will be made by amending the Trade in Endangered Species Act 1989 to ban the domestic sale
of elephant ivory in New Zealand with some exemptions, and to improve the regulatory system at the border,” said Eugenie Sage.

“This is a big step forward in strengthening the management of international trade in endangered, threatened and exploited species. The Cabinet decisions follow the release of a discussion document in September 2019 and public submissions.

“Currently there are no restrictions on domestic trade in elephant ivory in New Zealand. This is out of step with many countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, France, and China which have already banned domestic trade in elephant ivory.”

“I am pleased to announce the proposal to ban the domestic sale of any items made with ivory from elephants killed after 1975, which is when elephants began to be protected from international trade under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The import and export of all elephant ivory is also proposed to be banned, with narrow exemptions to ensure elephant ivory items can still be traded by museums, for DNA testing and testing to determine age, and that antique musical instruments with correct permits can still be carried across the border.

“The New Zealand market in ivory is small, but banning the sale of post-Convention elephant ivory in New Zealand will send a message that New Zealand does not want to receive elephant ivory that may have been poached or illegally traded,” said Eugenie Sage.

Other planned changes to the TIES Act focus on improving the way the Act is implemented to ensure the regulatory system at the border efficiently and effectively manages international wildlife trade and stops illegal trade.

“Proposed changes to the TIES Act will ensure that New Zealand can continue to protect significant plants and wildlife from around the world to the highest standard.”

The TIES Act will be amended to:

  • Regulate the domestic sale of elephant ivory, with elephant ivory from elephants killed before 1975 exempt;
  • place further restrictions at the border on importing and exporting elephant ivory;
  • update the definition of personal and household effects to ensure it functions as intended by not allowing items for commercial sale to qualify as personal or household effects;
  • include a regulation-making power enabling species-specific exemptions from permitting for personal and household effects;
  • enable a process to return seized items to individuals where there are permit irregularities in certain limited circumstances;
  • allow cost recovery for services provided to commercial traders; and
  • allow DOC to consider cases where there have been irregularities with permits issued by Management Authorities in other countries. There will be a process with strict conditions to consider errors, and decide whether to accept replacement or retrospective permits.

The Trade in Endangered Species Act 1989 will need to be amended to implement the changes. An amendment Bill will be drafted incorporating the proposed changes. It is planned for introduction to the next Parliament after the election to be referred to Select Committee after its first reading.

Background information

The Trade in Endangered Species Act implements the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). New Zealand became a party to CITES in 1989. The TIES Act has not been reviewed since enactment in 1989.

More information about the TIES Act and CITES is available on Department of Conservation’s (DOC) website: https://www.doc.govt.nz/cites

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