Date: 17 June 2013
In a meeting in Whangarei on 31 May 2013, the Northland Conservation Board discussed a range of topics and heard presentations from other organisations and members of the public.
The Northland Conservation Board expects to receive the revised draft Northland Conservation Management Strategy (CMS) beginning of August 2013.
Following the consultation phase that closed in March 2013, the revised document will reflect the submissions received and the hearing of submissions process.
Northland Conservation Board chair Mita Harris said, "The Northland CMS is an absolute priority for the Board. It directly links to the Board's key goal to enhance Northland's indigenous ecosystems and biodiversity and to reduce the threats to indigenous species at risk. The CMS is a major undertaking and one that will require the Board's undivided attention."
The Northland Conservation Board oversees the preparation and implementation of the CMS among its statutory duties. Over the next six months, the Board will review the revised document and make recommendations for approval to the New Zealand Conservation Authority.
While CMS documents need to be consistent throughout the country, the Board highlighted the importance of taking the diversity of regions and Northland's unique features into account.
The CMS is a 10-year strategic document that describes how the treasured places, native plants, and animals DOC cares for on behalf of all New Zealanders will be managed.
The definition of 'co-governance' of the proposed Kauri National Park and the prevention of Kauri dieback (PTA) continue to be major hurdles in the establishment of a new national park around Northland's Waipoua kauri forests.
There is also a view that all Treaty Claims in the North should be settled before any decision was made on the establishment of a Kauri National Park.
Yvonne Sharp, Chair of the New Zealand Conservation Authority Kauri National Park Proposal Committee updated the Board following a recent hui organised by the Te Roroa Manuwhenua Trust.
Mita Harris said, "It will be vital to balance the potential effects of increased visitor numbers and facilities that a national park would bring to the region with the need to protect kauri from the spread of PTA and root disturbance. Further discussions about the meaning and implications of 'co-governance' may also be required to progress the proposal."
Mrs Sharp advised that the Kauri National Park Proposal Committee would be reporting to the New Zealand Conservation Authority on its findings to date and pass on its recommendations. The Authority would then forward its report to the Minister of Conservation.
The Department of Conservation is due to implement its new structure from September 2013 onwards. It would set DOC up to more efficiently carry out conservation work, while also working more closely with partners to increase the amount of conservation being done across New Zealand. The new structure would provide greater national integration and includes the creation of two new business groups: Conservation Partnerships and Conservation Services, as well as moving from 11 Conservancies to 6 Regions.
Mita Harris said, "The Board is mindful that this will be a stressful time for all staff. The Board will support staff during this transition phase wherever possible."
He said, "Of concern are potential implications of DOC's re-structure on Conservation Boards."
The Northland Conservation Board will continue to press for the inclusion of the precautionary approach to Genetic Engineering/Genetically Modified Organisms (GE/GMOs) in the Northland Regional Policy Statement. Board members will speak to the Board's submission in front of the Independent Commissioners in June 2013.
The Board has also written a letter to the Northland Regional Council to express concerns regarding the decision of the Northland Regional Council Regional Policy Committee to omit the GE/GMOs precautionary text from the Regional Policy Statement.
Board member Robert Willoughby said, "Taking a precautionary approach to GE/GMOs is the wisest course of action. History relating to failed GE/GMOs projects and consequent cost to the public highlights that stringent conditions and liability must be applied to any applications."
Craig Brown, Chair, Northland Regional Council provided the Board with background to the Regional Policy Statement process. He advised that the majority of Councillors on the Regional Policy Committee had voted against the inclusion of specific text on GE/GMOs in the Regional Policy Statement despite an overwhelming number of supporting public submissions.
The push to 'Save the Kūkupa' is gathering momentum with the Board currently scoping potential sponsorship partners for the campaign.
Inspired by Mita Harris' passion for the protection of kūkupa/New Zealand pigeon, the Board began to raise public awareness of the bird's plight in 2012. Mita Harris said, "The Board hopes to launch a full-scale 'Save the Kūkupa' campaign in 2014."
Kūkupa is the only disperser of large native fruit seeds. The disappearance of the kūkupa would be a disaster for the regeneration of native forests. In Northland, the kūkupa is in danger of becoming locally extinct through the combined effects of predation, competition, and continued illegal hunting.
Early signs indicate that the establishment of the Northern Rural Fire Authority (NRFA) will reduce the number of wild fires started and the cost of fire suppression in Northland. The new Authority adopted a concentrated campaign of education, cost recovery, and prevention.
Mita Harris said, "I have been impressed with the education and advocacy messages." He said he was excited to see the new Authority was providing very effective practical opportunities for the public to take ownership in preventing fires within their area.
The events held by DOC in Whangarei and Kerikeri with the aim to inspire and motivate whanau, hapu and iwi into starting a business venture generated positive interest from around the country.
Board member Robert Willoughby said, "The events offered a lot of useful information. However, it is important to showcase tangible local projects that the community or groups can engage in."
Hori Parata, Northland Conservation Board member commented, "The events raised a complex conflict. Iwi/hapu acknowledge the need to explore tourism business opportunities, but at the same time, wahi tapu cannot be exploited."
The Board was assured that these comments would be addressed as the new DOC Partnership Teams commenced their work.
The Board heard presentations about Nga Whenua Rahui and the Queen Elizabeth II Trust (QEII). The aims of these funds link to a key goal of the Board - to encourage the involvement of groups and communities where appropriate in conservation projects both on private land and on public conservation land.
Nga Whenua Rahui is a contestable Ministerial fund for the protection of indigenous ecosystems on Maori land. Its scope covers the full range of natural diversity originally present in the landscape.
Northland representative, Meryl Carter advised the Board that covenants are for 25-year periods to allow beneficiaries of the land to consider future options.
Funding enables pest control, fencing, riparian planting, and other maintenance work relating to the covenanted area. Environmental Education is also a major part of Nga Whenua Rahui particularly aimed at children.
QEII National Trust helps private landowners protect significant natural and cultural features on their land with open space covenants.
Nan Pullman, regional representative of the Trust explained that her role was to work with landowners and farm managers to maximise the effectiveness of the covenanting process. Her work also includes regular monitoring of covenanted sites as well as providing biodiversity advice.
Nan Pullman highlighted the importance of maintaining strong ongoing relationships with landowners and working alongside other conservation organisations to assist landowners and the covenanted land achieve better results.
Zelka Grammer spoke to the Board on two issues of concern to her and the groups she represented.
GE/GMOs – Regional Policy Statement for Northland - Zelka Grammer applauded the Board for its longstanding stance regarding the need to take a precautionary approach to GE/GMOs and the Board's submission on the Regional Policy Statement.
She expressed a perceived 'conflict of interest' of the Chair of the Northland Regional Council Regional Policy Statement Committee and the process undertaken by that Committee in addressing the GE/GMOs issue.
Mokohinui Cycleway - Zelka Grammer highlighted the adverse environmental impact on conservation land in the Mokohinui Gorge area in the South Island created by the establishment of a cycleway.
She drew the Board's attention to the potential for this type of damage to occur should a similar proposal be put forward in the Northland area. She supported the concept of Cycleways throughout the country, but not at the expense of the ecology and the environment.
The Board acknowledged that what Zelka Grammer had presented was an "extreme case" and believed to be not typical of this type of activity.
To allow time for the implementation of DOC's new structure and its implications for Conservation Boards to be addressed, the Northland Conservation Board decided to dedicate its focus to the review of the Conservation Management Strategy (CMS).
Mita Harris said, "It is important that the Board gives the CMS its full attention. The Board will therefore base meetings between now and the end of 2013 around the CMS, and postpone public Board meetings until 2014."
"However, this does not mean that the Board will not continue to engage with the public at every opportunity in the meantime," said Mita Harris. "People can provide feedback and leave comments on the Board's web pages on the DOC website. The Board is also investigating other platforms to keep open dialogues with the community and iwi."
The terms of Northland Conservation Board members Helene Leaf, William Goodfellow and Peter O'Hara end on 30 June 2013, and all have indicated they were not seeking a further term.
Mita Harris said, "I thank Helene Leaf, William Goodfellow and Peter O'Hara for their significant and invaluable contribution to the Board during their time in office. I particularly want to acknowledge Helene Leaf for representing her whanau and rohe and Ngapuhi, William Goodfellow for his passionate representation of the Bay of Islands, and Peter O'Hara for his significant assistance with media and community relations."
He said all members would be greatly missed and he wished them well for the future.
Mita Harris said, "The 2013 Board appointment process and the future composition of Conservation Boards because of the new DOC structure are issues the Minister of Conservation is currently considering."
Northland Conservation Board Chair
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