After more than two decades of work and numerous failures to launch, the Government has announced the gazettal of a National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (NPS-IB). WWF-New Zealand welcomes this long overdue national direction and believes it will help address key failings of the Resource Management Act 1991, which have resulted in the sustained and dramatic decline of nature in New Zealand by failing to manage the cumulative impacts of human activities on indigenous biodiversity.
“Turning the tide on nature loss requires better identification, monitoring and management of biodiversity on both public and private lands, because our native species pay no heed to property boundaries created by humans,” says Dr Kayla Kingdon-Bebb, WWF-New Zealand’s CEO.
Whilst public conservation lands and waters are an important refuge for some of our most threatened species and ecosystems, a significant amount of New Zealand’s last remaining indigenous biodiversity is on private and Māori land. For example, 24% of our native vegetation cover, including both native grasslands and native forest, is estimated to be on sheep and beef farms.
“The absence of clear national direction on how to identify and manage indigenous biodiversity across all land tenures has meant that nature in New Zealand has been suffering a death by a thousand cuts.”
As a result, 63% of our ecosystems are now threatened – and a third of our native species are threatened or at risk of extinction, including:
90% of our seabird species
82% of our resident native birds
94% of our reptiles
72% of our freshwater fish.
Dr Kayla Kingdon-Bebb stated, “Biodiversity decline is a global issue, but it is particularly acute in Aotearoa due to our high levels of endemism. Many of the species that share our island home are found nowhere else on Earth – and, tragically, we have one of the highest extinction rates in the world.”
The creation of national direction on the management of indigenous biodiversity is a key step towards halting and reversing the decline of nature by 2030 – the overarching goal of the landmark Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.
“Target 1 of the Framework requires countries to apply a ‘biodiversity-inclusive’ spatial management approach to their land and ocean territories, which the NPS-IB will enable us to do,” Dr Kayla Kingdon-Bebb says.
WWF-New Zealand particularly welcomes the mitigation hierarchy included in the NPS-IB – which reflects global best practice – and clear recognition of Māori rights and interests.
Implementation support remains a key concern, however, and WWF-New Zealand welcomes the proposed creation of a biodiversity incentives scheme that enables landowners to realise value from the indigenous biodiversity on their properties – and motivates them to further protect and enhance it.
The first draft of the NPS-IB was developed by a collaborative group with wide representation from across te ao Māori, industry, and conservation interests. The high quality of the national direction announced today reflects the benefit of involving diverse partners and stakeholders in the development of policy that stands to affect them.