Read the Conservation Policy Summary
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Spokesperson: Kevin Hague MP
The Green Party envisions an Aotearoa New Zealand in which:
Distinctive and varied landscapes are protected, and indigenous biodiversity thrives.
There are no further extinctions of native species due to human impact, and no further habitat loss.
Threatened animals and plants will be restored to healthy numbers on the mainlands.
There is a complete network of ecologically representative areas, terrestrial and aquatic, under protective management.
There is public access to the conservation estate so that people can enjoy, interact with, and understand our indigenous natural environment.
Understanding and acknowledgement of the contribution of matauranga Māori to conservation management is enhanced.
The Green Party recognises that our quality of life is underpinned by the health of our unique ecosystems - from mountain-tops to seashore, and from braided river to ocean floor. Ecosystems and species, including ourselves, form an intricate, interconnected web of life which is a treasure in its own right. The natural world contributes to the food we eat and materials we use, the quality of our water and soils, our climate, and ultimately the ability of our environment to support all life. Therefore:
Conservation policies and practices must safeguard and enhance ecosystems and all native plants and animal species, especially those that are unique to Aotearoa New Zealand.
Conservation policies and practices must foster people's awareness of and enthusiasm for the protection of the plants and animals of Aotearoa New Zealand and the ecosystems in which they exist.
Conservation must extend beyond parks and reserves to become an integral part of the planning and management of the countryside (including farms), towns and cities, rivers and the sea.
Support will be given to kaitiakitanga of hapū in conservation management, and models of co-management are further developed.
Conservation is about how we live. It is about recognising the pressures placed on our endemic, migratory species and their habitats, and making a diligent, concerted, and fundamental commitment to ensure their survival through conservation, the protection from exotic and human threats, and supporting community initiatives and education.
The health of natural areas must not be compromised by a resource hungry and polluting economy. An organic, waste free, and energy efficient Aotearoa New Zealand will reduce the external pressures on our unique species and wild places.
Caring for nature and the services it provides creates worthwhile jobs for New Zealanders. It is also a powerful and positive way to inspire and motivate young people in urban and rural areas. Reconnecting with nature is an important part of changing the way we see the world we live within.
Specific Policy Points:
1. Improving Department of Conservation funding
DOC needs to be adequately funded to undertake its primary conservation role. Resources for conservation activities have been cut, and the department restructured to reduce the overall number of scientific staff. Vulnerable ecological sites are neglected and DOC cannot undertake its conservation and advocacy work effectively. The Green Party supports:
Developing DOC's core capacity by improving funding for human resources, including scientific staff, field workers, educational officers, and locally based volunteer initiatives, to ensure that DOC can exercise its conservation and advocacy activities fully.
Increasing funding to the Nature Heritage Fund to enable the purchase and protection of special places that are threatened. These could include whole property purchases in the high country and iconic coastal land with high ecosystem values.
Training for DOC staff to work constructively with hapū and communities to achieve common conservation goals in a manner that strengthens conservation outcomes and relations.
2. Saving Kiwi, Katipo, Koura, Kauri, and many other threatened species
Besides reducing new and existing pest pressure on indigenous biodiversity, we have to ensure there are habitats suitable for indigenous species to live and breed. We need to ensure that these species are protected from the unintended consequences of human activities. To this end, the Green Party will work to:
Conserve existing protected natural areas (PNA) and establish new areas (National Parks and reserves) to represent all ecosystem types in Aotearoa New Zealand, from the mountain tops to the sea. This will include dunelands, tussock land, grasslands, wetlands, lowland podocarp forests, and other ecosystems not well represented in the Conservation Estate, and will ultimately form a connected network.
Review the Wildlife Act and plant protection legislation to promote the conservation and protection of indigenous biodiversity, particularly those species threatened with extinction.
Establish new and larger 'mainland islands' for intensive pest management as well as ex-situ species conservation such as captive breeding programmes, to help save threatened native species from extinction on the mainlands.
Recognise the cultural heritage value of traditional Māori plants and animals, such as the kiore, and develop strategies to ensure these species are conserved in areas where they will not seriously threaten indigenous species;
Enhance the conservation potential of islands in co-operation with residents and tangata whenua. These islands are free of some pests and there is a potential to eradicate others. While there will still be a need to monitor these islands, it will remove the need for continuous control;
Fund increased research into indigenous ecosystem functioning and species population dynamics;
Encourage private landowners to maintain existing, and create new, areas of indigenous vegetation (see Beyond the Conservation Estate below);
Establish programmes to ensure the protection of a fully representative network of indigenous wetlands, dunelands and grasslands;
Assess the impacts of climate change for indigenous biodiversity (e.g. the risk of increased weed and pest problems, habitat change, reduced habitat for alpine and sub-alpine species) and develop a strategic response;
Continue the existing ban on the export of indigenous logs and chips;
Amend the Forests Act to require public consultation on draft sustainable management plans;
Ensure the Indigenous Forestry Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and territorial authorities rigorously enforce the sustainable forest management provisions of the Forest Act as they relate to indigenous forest on private land;
Prevent field trials or release of GE (genetically engineered) organisms.
3. Te Tiriti
Reject the use of the conservation estate as a cheap source of land for Treaty settlements, but support the appropriate use of conservation land for Treaty settlements such as Te Urewera.
Support the present practice of returning to iwi, sites within the conservation estate, of high value to tangata whenua, such as wāhi tapu.
Support customary use by tangata whenua within the conservation estate.
4. Beyond the Conservation Estate — Protecting Nature on Private and Māori Land
We seek an end to indigenous habitat loss and fragmentation. Achieving this will require co-operation and dialogue between hapū, government agencies, local authorities, community organisations, and private and Māori landholders. The Green Party will foster conservation in the countryside through economic incentives, education and regulation. The Green Party will:
Increase funding to help private and Māori landholders actively manage and protect indigenous habitats and ecosystems (i.e. the Biodiversity Condition, Biodiversity Advice, Nga Whenua Rahui, Nature Heritage and QEII Trust Funds).
Encourage landowners to retain and develop their sense of guardianship through support for voluntary initiatives such as those facilitated by landcare groups, and the promotion of the farm park concept to rehabilitate, enhance and maintain natural ecosystems and rural landscape values.
Encourage landowners to set marginal and unstable lands aside for restoration of native vegetation and to establish habitat corridors with the planting of indigenous vegetation on unused road strips, railway corridors, esplanade reserves and other areas.
Encourage the planting of indigenous forest for sustainable production of native timber by recognising on the title that these forests have been planted for harvest. This will provide ecosystem and landscape benefits, and certainty of ownership.
Reduce financial disincentives and barriers that hapū and landowners face regarding the protection of nature.
Support the use of the Resource Management Act to identify and protect important habitats on private land against over cultivation, over fertilisation, intensive stocking rates, infilling of aquatic habitats and wetlands, and inappropriate flood defences.
Ensure the national policy statement on indigenous biodiversity under the Resource Management Act provides clear direction to local authorities as to how significant natural areas are to be protected and requires councils to control damage to indigenous habitats (terrestrial and freshwater), and gives additional recognition and protection to the habitats of species threatened with extinction.
Foster and support local urban and rural nature conservation initiatives such as forest, wetland and stream restoration and maintenance by community groups and local authorities, including providing matching grants to those involved.
Require local authorities to develop and use conservation plans.
Work with local government and communities to ensure a minimum 5% of the land area of each of the 268 ecological districts in Aotearoa New Zealand is in native vegetation or set aside for the restoration of nature within four years.
5. Enhancing and Protecting Freshwater Habitats
Water quality, particularly in lowland rivers, lakes, and streams, is deteriorating. Wetlands are still being drained despite 90% of lowland freshwater wetlands having already been destroyed. Demands on water resources are fast approaching, or have reached, the point of exceeding the ability of water ecosystems to sustain themselves. Conflicts over use are already arising. The Green Party will work to:
Ensure that the New Start for Freshwater programme aims to manage all fresh water at a quality and quantity that will sustain indigenous species and ecosystems such as wetlands.
Develop, through public consultation, a national plan of action for Aotearoa New Zealand's fresh water resources that sets clear targets for water bodies and actions needed to maintain or improve water quality.
Prepare national standards under the Resource Management Act (RMA) to ensure no further losses of wetland habitat.
Amend the RMA to require that all Regional Councils develop for all water catchments in their regions integrated management plans for 'in stream' values, ground water, water quality and water habitats.
Ensure the Department of Conservation develops and implements recovery plans for threatened freshwater species and ecosystems, and that all threatened native fish (e.g. giant kokopu and short jawed kokopu) are legally protected.
Facilitate joint action by Fish and Game New Zealand and the Department of Conservation and others to remove pest fish from selected waterways.
Transfer those Crown-owned riverbeds in the South Island that are now administered by LINZ to the Department of Conservation to promote better management of braided river ecosystems.
Support efforts to obtain water conservation orders to protect wild and scenic rivers (e.g. Mokau, Ashburton/Hakatere Catchment, Whanganui River, Waipa River).
Raise the status of water conservation orders to be equivalent to national parks in terms of irrevocability.
Improve the process by which water conservation orders are applied for and considered, including the setting of time limits on different phases of the process, and introduce measures to recognise and raise the conservation value of all rivers.
Minimize pollution of urban streams and harbours through an Urban Waterway Restoration Strategy, so people can enjoy their local streams and beaches.
6. Reducing Threats to Indigenous Biodiversity
Increasing trade and tourism has been accompanied by numerous new organisms arriving in New Zealand that pose threats to biodiversity. Trade and tourism interests cannot justify the accidental or deliberate introduction of new pest species into New Zealand. The Green Party aims to ensure, through stringent management of NZ biosecurity, that no new species of invasive animal, plant or other pests become naturalised in NZ. The Green Party will:
- Develop a Biosecurity Strategy that:
- Is based on a precautionary approach.
- Recognises that many pest incursions are irreversible and so promotes the lowest practical risk approach.
- Considers the harmful effects of toxins on human and non-target species, in decisions on the use of ground and aerial spray, and ensures chemicals are only used as a last resort.
- Addresses the risks from imported GE organisms and ensures MAF maintains and constantly improves its biosecurity protocols for seed importation.
- Amend the Biosecurity Act to:
- Include, as its purpose, the need to protect New Zealand from pests, diseases, and GE organisms.
- Require regional councils to develop pest management strategies that cover both private and public land.
- Encourage the preparation of pest management strategies that are area/ecosystem based strategies as well as species based.
- Allow consideration of the cumulative impacts on biodiversity associated with imports.
- Increase funding for implementing biosecurity risk assessments and invasion response measures through levying importers and people arriving at our borders.
- Require importers to pay the full cost of eradication when negligence or non-compliance has been demonstrated.
- Enhance our ability to prevent exotic species from entering New Zealand and the ability to respond to any incursions that do occur (e.g. continued and expanded public education, six-sided inspection of cargo containers, off-shore inspection of containers, increased staff training and technology, emergency response fund, permanent pest surveillance programmes around ports).
- Give equal importance to biosecurity threats to the marine environment as to those of the terrestrial environment.
- Require risk assessments for exotic organisms to consider their potential impacts on indigenous species and ecosystems, and urban and rural environments, in addition to those on primary production and human health.
7. Reducing Current Pest Threats to Biodiversity
New Zealand's indigenous biodiversity has been and continues to be severely diminished due to the impact of introduced pest animals and plants. These impacts include direct predation, competition for food and territory and degradation of habitat. Pests also degrade the services provided by native ecosystems, including carbon storage. Many native plant and animal species are on the brink of extinction, and many more are in decline.
A. Pest Management Strategies
The Green Party vision is for thriving biodiversity, no further extinctions, and restoration of healthy populations, habitats and ecosystems. In order to achieve this, the Green Party seeks to eradicate pest plants and animals that threaten significant ecological values wherever possible, and to control them where eradication is not possible. The Green Party will:
Promote and significantly increase funding for pest eradication and control, to a level that ensures biodiversity and ecosystem health is maintained and, where possible, enhanced or restored.
Develop and fund national pest management strategies as part of coordinating and integrating pest control between central and local government agencies to ensure efficient and purposeful pest management goals are set and achieved.
Complete identification of priority sites for the conservation of species and ecosystems, ensure that these sites have legal protection in perpetuity, and that they are fully resourced for integrated pest control.
Ensure that control of introduced animals on conservation land remains the responsibility of the Department of Conservation.
Remove or eradicate, where possible, large pest animals such as goats, deer, pigs, chamois, and tahr in those areas where they threaten important ecological values, including carbon storage, and restrict the range and density of the remaining population in cooperation with the community.
Investigate the feasibility of increasingly large-scale island eradications (e.g. it may eventually be feasible to eradicate possums from Rakiura/Stewart Island) and the progressive eradication of pests on the mainland.
Expand pest free offshore islands and intensively controlled 'mainland islands' as havens for threatened species and work to ensure that do not become recolonised by pests.
Raise public awareness of the threats posed by pest animals and plants (including invasive exotic garden varieties) to New Zealand's biodiversity and ecological health, and the various pest control efforts being undertaken to reduce these threats.
Support community involvement in volunteer pest control projects and private-land pest management for biodiversity purposes.
Establish guidelines for farming of pest species (such as some introduced fish, goats and deer) to prevent the establishment of new pest populations by escapees, and prohibit the establishment of mustelid farms except for pest control purposes.
Introduce and broaden offences for the purposeful or neglectful release of pests into the wild.
Facilitate and encourage local authorities to limit the impact of predatory pets (including cats and dogs) on indigenous species and ecosystems.
B. Use of Poisons in Animal Pest Control
Currently animal pest control in Aotearoa New Zealand involves the extensive use of poisons in ground and aerial operations because they are generally cost effective means of controlling animal pest species. Modern technology allows more precise distribution of aerial poison such as 1080 than in the past, and the amount of poison per hectare has been reduced while still maintaining effectiveness.
However, the use of poisons on a large scale, particularly near people's homes, poses ecological risks and raises community concerns. The Green Party Environment policy aims to minimise the use of all persistent, environmentally damaging, or non-sustainably produced poisons, especially when using aerial distribution and we strongly support research and promotion of other pest control methods. 1080 poison is widely used to control pest species as it degrades relatively rapidly and is not bio-accumulative. Nonetheless it is acutely toxic to a number of non-target animals including dogs and native wildlife, is considered inhumane by many, and there may be as yet undiscovered long-term toxicological effects arising from its widespread use.
The Green Party aspires to see indigenous biodiversity and farm animal health maintained and enhanced, and eradication and control of pest animals achieved with minimal use of poisons and without the use of genetically modified organisms. We recognise that currently it is not feasible to stop all use of poisons for animal pest control without unacceptable adverse impacts on biodiversity and forest health. However, we believe that current and developing integrated ground control methods offer opportunities, and that increased research and development will expand alternatives to aerial 1080 over time that are both affordable and effective.
The Green Party will:
In general, and wherever practical, support replacing poisons with humane and safe biological and physical controls.
Continue to support a ban on the release or field trial of genetically engineered organisms into the environment (see our Agriculture and Rural Affairs policy for further details).
Promote, support and fund ground based methods of pest control by a properly trained workforce in preference to aerial poisoning wherever they could reasonably achieve the desired conservation outcomes, especially in areas of lowland forest, around farms, near people's homes (i.e. closer than 200 m) and near waterways that supply human and stock drinking water.
Significantly increase funding for both research and implementation of innovative, safe and humane methods of ground based pest control.
Where possible, eliminate the uncontrolled use of bio-accumulative and persistent poisons for animal pest control.
Support greater involvement of local communities in maintaining and enhancing local biodiversity and promote and fund a multi-agency approach to integrated animal pest control. Such an approach would include educating the community on biodiversity values, threats and pest control methods, and engaging the public in community-led ground based control programmes
Establish and fund training schemes that provide comprehensive training in ground control for people in local communities willing and able to do this hard physical work.
Coordinate and fund agencies to develop pest control schemes in collaboration with industries harvesting pest animals (e.g. the fur and textiles industry), in areas where pest animal harvesting and conservation outcomes can both be achieved.
Establish and fund, trial areas for poison-free integrated animal pest control - prioritising areas where aerial 1080 is currently used near settlements. Pest control in these areas would be in partnership with the local community and iwi, and extra funding would be provided to establish and up-skill the local workforce. These areas would be regularly monitored to transparently assess the effectiveness of control methods to ensure that desired biodiversity outcomes are being met and control methods improved.
Investigate a strategy to progressively increase the proportion of ground control and progressively decrease the proportion of aerial control with the purpose of ensuring increased pest control coverage and effectiveness, and increased use of alternatives to aerial poison. Any strategy would need to be regularly reviewed to ensure conservation outcomes were clearly being improved.
8. South Island High Country
Much of the South Island high country is under pastoral leases where farmers are allowed to use the land for grazing. Much of this land is ecologically sensitive and has been degraded by grazing. Rentals paid on the leased land are not adjusted for inflation and bear no relationship to commercial return levels. There is currently a process of tenure review taking place that will result in more than half of the land being disposed of and becoming freehold to the occupiers while the remainder is being added to the conservation estate. The Green Party will:
Encourage and support high country farmers to work with DOC and territorial authorities to improve conservation goals.
Require all leaseholders to develop sustainable management plans, in consultation with DOC and territorial authorities for the land under lease.
Review the valuation system which currently undervalues the Crown's stake in the land.
Investigate the effectiveness of the Government's tenure review of pastoral leases programme to ensure it is fully protecting conservation values, public access and the Crown's interest.
Implement a moratorium on new, preliminary, or substantive tenure review proposals until the investigation is completed and any subsequent changes are implemented.
Amend the Overseas Investment Act to restrict the sale of high country property to New Zealand citizens or residents who reside in New Zealand for at least 185 days a year.
9. Public Access to the Conservation Estate
There are concerns that access to conservation land, waterways and the coast is being made difficult for the general public. The Green Party supports public access to Conservation Estates and will:
- When conservation values are upheld, support the public continuing to have walking access to the conservation estate.
- Support the work of the Walking Access Commission to achieve the following:
- Build constructive relationships between landowners and land users.
- Provide financial support for landowners who need to erect signs and fence their properties.
- Work with the Department of Conservation on this issue of access and any resulting conservation issues.
- Liaise with the Waitangi Tribunal to determine if land may be under a claim or investigation.
- Ensure access to paper roads is maintained by resolving complaints about the obstruction of paper roads.
- Provide community mediation and work with councils and assist them to enforce the law and provide appropriate signage.
- Research and collect information from the public about land access issues, including difficulties.
- Report to Parliament within two years about whether there is a need for legislation to resolve issues and improve public access to land.
- Facilitate public access to New Zealand outdoors and iconic lands by ensuring existing paper roads remain open and adequately marked.
10. Helping People Get Involved
New Zealanders are proud of their natural heritage and increasingly want to be actively involved in its protection and promotion. The more they are able to do so the more they are likely to value New Zealand's natural heritage. To foster this, the Greens will make every effort to:
Restore and adequately resource DOC's role in advocating for conservation and providing education about conservation to the wider community;
Incorporate environmental education into the core curriculum at all levels from pre-school to tertiary and teacher training;
Encourage expanded environmental education in the adult education network;
Build on the strengths and achievements of the conservation boards as independent voices for conservation, providing input to policy from tangata whenua and community;
Support the continuing development of conservation partnerships between DOC and tangata whenua, environment groups and local communities;
Increase levels and security of funding to community and iwi groups involved in conservation work and education.
Encourage and support local government to take more responsibility for implementing conservation goals through district and regional plans, and facilitate the involvement of the community and tangata whenua in formulating and implementing these conservation goals.
Foster community participation in environmental decision making with better notification of development proposals and support for improved community and tangata whenua participation in resource management issues, including proposals for prospecting or mining in conservation lands and marine areas.
Work with communities to ensure that the costs of protecting our natural heritage for the "common good" are shared across communities, regions and the country as a whole, and ensure funding is made available for regions with a high proportion of protected areas.
Mining and extraction has adverse effects on landforms, oceans, waterways and ecosystems. It is currently prohibited in National Parks and various other types of reserve, but under the Crown Minerals Act 1991 it occurs contentiously in other parts of the conservation estate. The Green Party will:
Prohibit new exploration, prospecting and mining on or under conservation land.
Ensure there is tight control over existing mining on conservation land and reserves, in partnership with tangata whenua, and through consultation with environmental groups, local communities and the public.
Require mining activities be halted when rare and endemic species are found to present on the mining site.
Reject the notion of trading conservation land for other land to facilitate extractive activities.
Gazette areas of conservation land deserving of schedule 4 (Crown Minerals Act) status which have been omitted from schedule 4 because of their mineral potential.
Tourism has increased enormously over recent years and many tourists utilise the conservation estate. In some places this has led to overuse of facilities and adverse impacts on the natural values of the area. The Green Party will:
- Review the concessions section of the Conservation Act and DOC's management and administration of concessions to determine how changes can be implemented to protect the natural values and control visitor pressure at peak times.
- Implement strategies to reduce the impact of high tourist numbers in some areas, including developing:
- Visitor quotas on land with high conservation value.
- Review Civil Aviation Authority rules that allow air traffic over areas of natural quiet.
- International tourist levies.
- Conservation education for visitors.
- Initiatives that set aside lower conservation value land for high volume tourism.
- Ensure that DOC has sufficient resources to protect classic back country huts and bivs, which are used by ordinary New Zealanders.
- Require consideration of the cumulative effect of visitor activities on the character of the conservation estate rather than just the effects of individual activities in isolation.
- Ensure that Wilderness Areas remain protected as places where people can experience natural quiet, and consider proposals for new Wilderness Areas.
13. Marine Conservation
The current management of the marine zone is dominated by commercial fishing, mineral extraction and transport interests. This has led to degradation of the marine environment resulting, probably, in species extinctions and, certainly, in massive declines in some commercial fish stocks. We simply do not know enough about the marine environment yet to justify taking anything but a precautionary approach to management. This must involve setting some areas aside as reserves. The Green Party will:
- Consult fully with all stakeholders to develop a comprehensive marine protection strategy with targets and timetables for putting in place different categories of marine protection, including marine reserves.
- Pass the Marine Reserves Bill in the first 6 months in office, with appropriate amendments, including the facilitation of the co-location of reserves and Māori traditional management areas (mataitai and taiapure) to address Māori concerns about the loss of customary fishing rights.
- Ensure early protection of a network of marine reserves of a viable area, representing all marine eco-system types, within our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), including coastal, seamount and deepwater areas which are critical for the maintenance of biodiversity and the replenishment of fisheries.
- Recognise the cultural and heritage functions of marine reserves, in addition to their ecological and fisheries protection function, and locate some marine reserves near towns and cities, ensuring accessible educational, spiritual and recreational opportunities for people.
- Encourage the development of taiapure and mataitai/reserve initiatives searching for win-win solutions that respect both ecosystem protection and customary rights.
- Establish a network of marine mammal sanctuaries covering important feeding and breeding grounds of endangered marine mammals, including but not limited to:
- An extension of the Auckland Islands trawl-free marine mammal sanctuary, until marine mammal escape technologies are adequate to protect the endangered New Zealand Hooker's sea lion.
- Further restrictions on marine activities in the ranges of Maui and Hector's dolphins to achieve habitat protection and a zero by-catch of these species.
- Amend the National Parks Act to facilitate the protection of marine areas adjacent to national parks (e.g. Fiordland).
- Establish marine parks in key areas such as the Marlborough Sounds and the Bay of Islands by:
- Working with communities in the initial developmental stages.
- Ensuring these parks are managed by local people and tangata whenua.
- Minimize fishing by-catch by:
- Setting a target of near-zero fishing-related mortality of marine mammals, turtles, endangered seabirds, and other threatened marine species, for all fisheries.
- Requiring the use of best practice methods.
- Closing the fisheries as soon as the limit is reached.
- Advocate for the maximum possible protection of marine mammals by:
- Opposing all commercial and so-called 'scientific' whaling, and until that is achieved, supporting South Pacific and regional whale sanctuaries.
- Prohibiting the further holding of marine mammals in captivity except as part of an approved threatened species recovery strategy.
- Working to stop the disruptive exploitation of marine mammals.
- Provide resources for marine biosecurity being given the same level of importance as terrestrial biosecurity, including risk assessment, surveillance, incursion response and on-going pest control where all else fails.
- Support international initiatives for marine conservation.