To: Hon Eugenie Sage, Minister of Conservation
Date: 14 June 2018
At its April meeting the Authority was briefed by Rob Phillips, CE of Southland Regional Council, on the Local Government NZ Willis Report, “Addressing New Zealand’s Biodiversity Challenge: Five recommendations for change”. The subsequent discussion focused on the five shifts proposed in the report. Our advice to you, arising from this discussion and members’ experience in reversing the loss of biodiversity, is that an integrated solution will need:
- To “paint a picture” of what success looks like, which the wider public can embrace and engage in achieving (i.e. how much biodiversity is sufficient?) and build public understanding of the contribution of biodiversity to New Zealand’s national well-being. Here, the new framework for Budget 2019 is likely to help inform and initiate this;
- To improve the public’s appreciation of why biodiversity matters. The term remains poorly understood and definitions such as that from the Convention on Biological Diversity, article 2 ("Biological diversity means the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems") are difficult for most of the public to grasp, and do not indicate why genetic diversity, species variety, and habitat are important to ecosystem function and societal well-being. We suggest the work already done on this matter in 1999-2000 by a Ministerial Advisory Committee concerning biodiversity on private land not be overlooked. Their report, ‘Bio What?’ traverses and provides advice on many of the same issues confronted today;
- Enhanced cross-sectoral governance so that the actions of local government, the Department of Conservation and, where practical, private land owners are coordinated and accountability for achieving outcomes is improved. National oversight needs to extend beyond the Territorial Authorities and the Department of Conservation to also engage Maori and private land owners in order to provide overall system leadership, support synergistic use of resources, confirm an agenda for action (so that, for example, good work in one district is not undone by inaction next door) and consolidate reporting of progress at different scales. In this regard the modus operandi of PF2050 Ltd, coordinating across a diverse range of entities for a common purpose, provides some similarities and therefore likely useful insights for biodiversity;
- The RMA legislation to be reviewed, as part of the development of Biodiversity NPS, so that it enables the attainment of biodiversity outcomes (and the vision);
- The Biodiversity NPS to require the application of a suite of best practice tools to support spatial planning, prioritisation and resource consenting; and , as part of implementation of the NPS, the adoption of robust measures which prove that gains are being made “on the ground” through time at different scales (site, district, landscape, national). Such measures should be relatable across these scales (i.e. we note biodiversity improvements in many cases will need to be made of multiple decades and require inter-generational support);
- To reassess the framework for science investment so that decisions for the allocation of contestable funding (e.g. the Endeavour Fund) support the priorities set out in the Environment & Conservation 20-year roadmap (which is to be reviewed every five years), and thereby fill critical knowledge gaps and assist the adoption of technology innovations that can accelerate on the ground efforts to recover lost genetic diversity, restore habitats and help species adapt to climate change.
The Authority would be pleased to further discuss these and other matters at a future meeting of the Authority.