The Te Mana O Te Taiao Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy Implementation Plan launched today is an excellent start, says new Forest & Bird Chief Executive Nicola Toki. But a plan for New Zealand that makes protection of nature the heart of our economic and environmental wellbeing will need stronger action from government economic agencies.
“This plan is urgent and necessary,” says Ms Toki. “Protecting nature is no longer just a ‘nice-to-have' but a critical strategy to protect us from the impacts of climate change, help us maintain our quality of life, and allow our identities as nature-loving people to flourish.
“If done right, this plan has the potential to save species from extinction, bring back birdsong to our communities, and protect New Zealanders from severe consequences of climate change impacts.
“What we’ve seen today is a cracking start, but to be successful in achieving the goals of Te Mana o te Taiao (Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy), much more needs to be done.
“As climate change impacts intensify in the future, we will increasingly rely on restored wetlands to slow flooding, new native forests to reduce erosion, and both to absorb carbon. Nature can protect us, but only if we protect nature first.”
“Last week’s State of the Environment report shows that business as usual won’t turn around the loss of nature in New Zealand. There is good work in this plan, it's just not enough to turn the tide or meet the Government’s own goals for 2025.”
Forest and Bird recommends that the Government address five critical gaps in its plan to make it work:
- Urgently gazette the National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity. This is critical to protecting nature on private land.
- Make more ambitious law changes. Reform of the Resource Management Act needs to make strong commitments to protecting nature. Fisheries law reform needs to include a proper precautionary principle, ecosystem-based fisheries management, and a zero-bycatch goal. Additionally, the Marine Mammal Protection Act needs an overhaul.
- Drive primary sector transformation. Identify and address the environmental impacts of the most damaging economic activities and ensure all primary sector transition plans deliver transformative outcomes for nature.
- Dramatically increase pest control. Set clear targets, timetables and programmes for increasing pest control. This should include programmes to control browsing pests to increase carbon storage; incorporating statutory responsibilities such as the Himalayan Tahr Control Plan 1993; and expanding PF2050 to become pest free 2050 by including animals such as feral cats, especially in places where feral cats are known to have significant impact on indigenous wildlife.
- Find new funding to implement the strategy. There should be greater use of polluter pays principles. This could include levying greenhouse gas polluters for the cost of adapting to climate change, levying the insurance sector for the benefits it receives from natural flood protection, and updating the wellbeing priorities and Budget policy to make funding the strategy a national wellbeing priority.
“The key to making this plan work is for all government agencies to engage with it, because to restore te taiao means economic and wellbeing benefits across all New Zealand sectors,” says Ms Toki.
“In particular, we look forward to primary sector and economic ministers driving MPI, MBIE, and Treasury's understanding of the scale of transformation needed and the central role they play in restoring nature in New Zealand. The biodiversity crisis requires all hands to the pump, not just the natural resources agencies who are currently leading this work.
“We need all of Government to write the laws that are needed, fund the work that must be done, and transform our primary industries – so that the natural world that defines us can continue to sustain us in future.”