New Zealand’s Conservation Minister Willow-Jean Prime says new laws are needed to address the country’s “biodiversity crisis.”
“More than 4,000 of our native species are currently threatened, with some at risk of extinction,” Ms. Prime said. “A new [Wildlife] Act will help to address threats they face, including impacts from climate change, invasive species and habitat loss.”
A review by the Department of Conservation determined that the current Act did not effectively protect at-risk or threatened species, noting that not all native species were covered.
“The DOC review reinforced strong support for reforming the Wildlife Act and a shared vision for native species and their habitats,” Ms. Prime said.
“This is something the community has been calling for, and we are committed to ensuring taonga are taken care of for future generations.”
Former conservation minister Kiri Allan previously said an updated legislation would better equip New Zealand to deal with biodiversity threats, such as invasive species, habitat loss, climate change, and pollution.
“Conservation planning and permitting decisions often don’t, or can’t, reflect what local communities want, or the latest environmental science. The current system isn’t fully facilitating the activities we want to enjoy, like mountain biking, or the scientific research we need to address the biodiversity crisis,” Ms. Allan said.
“Alleviating some of those pressures and frustrations by simplifying the processes for concessions and other permits for researchers, tourism operators, and other businesses is a much-needed fix.
“Ensuring that conservation legislation is up to date, enduring, and reflective of our values is vital if we want the next generation to enjoy the special place we call home.”
Many of New Zealand’s plants and animals are unique to the country, with official estimates saying that there are 70,000 endemic plant and animal species.
It is notably home to the greatest number of flightless birds, including the iconic Kiwi as well as takahe, weka, and the critically endangered kakapo, the world’s heaviest parrot.
However, Statistics NZ said in March that over 75 percent of indigenous reptiles, birds, bats, and freshwater fish species groups were in danger of becoming extinct or at risk of being in danger of becoming extinct.
Michele Lloyd, environment statistics manager at Stats NZ, said the loss of many of New Zealand’s indigenous species was a “real possibility.”
“Ninety-four percent of our reptile species, 82 percent of bird species, 80 percent of bat species, 76 percent of freshwater fish species, and 46 percent of vascular plant species are either facing extinction or are at risk of being threatened with extinction,” she said.
Environmental Credit Score
The central government is also currently exploring whether a “biodiversity credit system” could help protect wildlife.
It would provide credits and financial incentives to landowners for conserving habitats and native species.
In addition, there would be more rules and requirements for councils to protect significantly biodiverse areas and all regional councils will be required to have a regional biodiversity strategy.
“There’s been a requirement on councils for 30 years to take care of important wildlife habitats, but it’s had no definition and no support. We are changing that,” Climate Change Minister James Shaw said in July.
“Existing activities, such as grazing, can continue provided their effects remain at the same level and don’t increase the loss of native plants or animals in a significant natural area.
“We are also mindful that Maori land is home to a significant amount of indigenous vegetation, so we have created a tailored approach. This will prevent Māori land from being excessively affected by the NPSIB [national policy statement for indigenous biodiversity] and will allow Maori to meet their aspirations for the use of their land and care for the environment.”
The consultations for the credit system are currently ongoing, running until Nov. 3.