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A significant and collaborative win for nature is how Forest & Bird describes Aotearoa New Zealand’s finalised National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (NPSIB), announced by Associate Minister for the Environment (Biodiversity), the Hon James Shaw, in Kerikeri today.

“We congratulate Associate Minister Shaw, and everyone involved in getting the NPSIB into law – it's the first time our country’s native species and habitats has had this level of protection and it’s been 30 years in the making,” says Forest & Bird chief executive Nicola Toki.

“We have already lost too much and year by year native forests, wetlands and tussock lands have disappeared. The National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity aims to stop the slide into extinction for threatened species and prevent further destruction of native habitats.” 

Stats NZ report released earlier this year showed more than 75% of indigenous reptile, bird, bat and freshwater fish species in New Zealand are at risk of extinction. 

The NPSIB will help maintain indigenous biodiversity across Aotearoa by requiring councils to identify areas with significant indigenous biodiversity (Significant Natural Areas, or SNAs) and manage any negative effects on them from new developments and activities.

From 2017, Forest & Bird worked as part of the Biodiversity Collaborative Group (BCG), alongside Federated Farmers, the Environmental Defence Society, the New Zealand Forestry Association, a representative of the Iwi Chairs Forum through the Pou Taiao Advisors Group, and representatives from infrastructure industries.

“Collectively we put in a huge amount of time and effort into presenting a collaborative solution – with compromises made by all members in order to reach agreement,” Ms Toki says.

“Now we finally have government policy that recognises the biodiversity crisis, which councils must implement across the different types of land ownership throughout the country.

“The NPSIB provides certainty to landowners, farmers and growers, tangata whenua, forest owners, and urban developers, as well as consistency across councils.

“We know how much Kiwis care about the native wildlife in their regions and their backyards, so we are very pleased this has got across the line.” 

Specific wins include: 

  • recognition that Māori have a vital role as kaitiaki of their whenua and have an abiding interest in the health of their environment 

  • the need to take a precautionary approach when considering adverse effects on indigenous biodiversity  

  • management of indigenous biodiversity to promote resilience to the effects of climate change 

  • areas outside SNAs that support specified highly mobile fauna (such as pekapeka bats) are identified and managed to maintain their populations across their natural range 

  • even if a council has not yet mapped its SNAs, they will be required to manage areas as SNAs if they meet significance criteria in regional policy statements and plans until they have undertaken mapping required under the NPSIB. 

Ms Toki says, overall, finalising the NPSIB is a substantial move to saving more species from being lost to us. However, Forest & Bird has some concerns and would have preferred a commitment in the NPSIB to not just “maintain”, but to restore and improve the ecological health and mauri of indigenous biodiversity and habitats, beyond what we have left now.

“We are also disappointed that the exemptions to the policy include coal mining. Given the Government’s 2017 promise of no new mines on conservation land – not to mention the fact we’re in a climate crisis – allowing the possibility of coal mining within SNAs seems hypocritical,” she says.

“Ultimately the success of the NPSIB will depend on councils adequately monitoring and acting against anyone who doesn’t comply with the new provisions – and we will be keeping a watchful eye on compliance." 

Biodiversity credit system floated 

Forest & Bird also welcomes the launch of the discussion document on a biodiversity credit system.

“Government will need to be upfront about the costs of running a biodiversity credit system, including the work required to ensure that biodiversity credits deliver promised improvements for nature across New Zealand,” Ms Toki says.

“We will need more time to consider the wording in the objective and any proposed biodiversity credit system but believe the proposal must exclude offsetting.

“We note existing Australian biodiversity offset schemes were seriously criticised in audits by the Auditors General from Victoria and New South Wales for failing to deliver results for nature, a lack of transparency, and for poor monitoring. We don’t want results like that for any similar schemes in Aotearoa.” 


Forest & Bird explainer: Understanding SNAs and the NPSIB

Forest & Bird's submission on the Draft National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity

Audit Office of NSW report on biodiversity credits: Effectiveness of the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme

Victorian Auditor-General's Office report on biodiversity credits: Offsetting Native Vegetation Loss on Private Land

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