How are Canterbury farmers doing their bit to help the environment? Environment Canterbury chairman Steve Lowndes explains.
The move is recommended in a draft National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity (NPS-IB) just released by the Biodiversity Collaborative Group (BCG).
Such a move would likely impact farmers; the report notes that “Much of New Zealand’s remaining biodiversity is on privately owned and managed land, meaning that landowners have a vital role in ensuring that Aotearoa New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity thrives.”
The report also points to a wider role for farm environment plans (FEP) in enhancing biodoversity.
BCG includes Federated Farmers, Forest & Bird, the Forest Owners Association, Environmental Defence Society, the Iwi Chairs Forum and representatives from infrastructure. It has worked for 18 months to advise on a new national-level policy on indigenous biodiversity, covering native plants, animals and ecosystems.
“The group is made up of people with a strong interest and passion for ensuring our unique biodiversity thrives and can be enjoyed by future generations,” says group trustee and Federated Farmers board member Chris Allen.
“From the outset, the group acknowledged we need a step change in NZ’s approach to biodiversity if this is to occur.
“With a significant proportion of NZ’s remaining indigenous biodiversity on private land, we want to enable local communities and landowners to continue their great conservation work on the ground, while also giving them certainty and clarity through more effective RMA plans,” Allen said.
A key recommendation is that councils would have to map significant natural areas in their plans.
And they would have to work with tangata whenua, landowners and the wider community to set regional strategies for biodiversity enhancement.
The report notes that many farmers, horticulturalists, foresters and others already operate to various forms of environmental management plans, some voluntary and some mandated by commercial demands.
“There is a real opportunity for the development of these plans to include biodiversity objectives and associated monitoring and reporting obligations.”
In a related move, the Farming Leaders Group has acknowledged the possibility of making FEPs mandatory for all farmers. Federated Farmers president Katie Milne said that would be formalising what was already being done by most, but there would have to be a transition period to mandatory plans.
Forest & Bird lawyer Sally Gepp said the report, which was handed to Government on Thursday, followed several unsuccessful attempts to produce a NPS-IB under previous governments.
“This stakeholder-led process has been a breakthrough. Just as importantly, the group has collaborated to identify measures beyond the NPS-IB that should make a real difference for our native species and ecosystems.”
Gepp said a robust NPS-IB was essential for halting and reversing the biodiversity crisis in NZ.
“NZ’s unique biodiversity continues to be lost, largely due to habitat loss and introduced pests.
“Without clear, directive policy it can be hard for decisionmakers to see the cumulative impact of incremental habitat loss.”
Allen said the group thanked Associate Environment Minister Nanaia Mahuta, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage and former Environment Minister Nick Smith for their support over the last 18 months.
The Government will seek public feedback before the draft agreement progresses to an operative NPS-IB under the Resource Management Act.