The new rules propose that all councils map and protect Significant Natural Areas (SNA) of indigenous biodiversity. Some councils have already undertaken this work and others have not.
To develop SNAs councils go through a mapping and consultation process, and you have the opportunity to participate in that process. DairyNZ is also planning to make a submission on behalf of dairy farmers.
If you have indigenous vegetation, wetlands or indigenous fauna (like native bird or insect) habitat on your farm - you could be affected by the proposals.
Some other farmers could also be affected - for example if the farm borders an area of indigenous vegetation or has vegetation which provides safe passage for indigenous fauna. Your land may also be affected if you have identified taonga (species, community or ecosystem) or have a considered customary take site (such as mahinga kai).
Indigenous vegetation developed for purposes other than conversation reasons (like a constructed wetland for effluent management or riparian planting) is not subject to these new restrictions.
DairyNZ is planning to make a submission on behalf of dairy farmers.
How could the proposals affect me?
If your council identifies your farm as having a Significant Natural Area (SNA) you may be affected.
If your farm contains a SNA, you would be able to carry out most existing farming activities. However, some new or changed activities could be restricted if they negatively affect the SNA. Negative effects could include disrupting ecosystem function, reducing the size of the threatened species, or loss of connectivity between the SNA and other ecosystems. It may be challenging to demonstrate that a new activity doesn’t have a negative effect on the SNA area. A new or changed activity could also potentially include increasing the stocking rate on your farm.
If new activities are allowed, any negative effects must be managed by avoiding effects where possible, remedying them if not avoidable, then mitigating them if they are not able to be remedied. If these are not demonstrably possible, then biodiversity offsetting or compensation options may be considered.
This may limit the ability of farmers to carry out new activities unless they have minor effects.
There are some exemptions proposed allowing farmers to carry out new activities for reasons such as public health and safety and habitat restoration.
Existing activities such as pasture maintenance should be allowed to continue as long as the area has not been identified as a SNA, the maintenance is a part of a regular cycle, and the effects from these activities do not increase in character, intensity or scale.
The new proposals would also require councils to support biodiversity restoration and enhancement, including wetland restoration. If you plan to make changes on your farm and need a resource consent, (for example due to an effect on a Significant Natural Area), it’s possible that the council may require you to carry out work to restore biodiversity.
Read more about the proposals here
What if I already have land on my property the council has classed as a SNA?
If this land is classed as a Significant Natural Area, there are likely to be restrictions on farming activities in this area.
The proposed new rules may be more restrictive on what you can do on your property than the council rules in place currently. Read above for more information or visit the Ministry for the Environment website.
Any changes to existing rules would not occur immediately but when councils update their existing plans, and further consultation would be undertaken by your local council at that time.
As proposed, councils will need to identify and map SNAs within five years of the commencement date of the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity.
Should I make a submission and what should I cover?
If the proposals affect you or you would like to have your say on the proposals, then we encourage you to make a submission.
Submissions close 14 March 2020 at 5pm
If you make a submission, you could consider covering:
- Information about your farm, including any biodiversity on your property and any work you have done to protect or enhance biodiversity
- what you agree with about the proposals
- what you disagree with
- how the proposals would affect you
- your views on how biodiversity could be best protected and enhanced
- any specific questions or topics raised in the discussion document you want to comment on.
The Ministry for the Environment has an online submission form. The form is quite long and it’s not mandatory to complete all the questions - you can find it here.
You can also make a submission by emailing your views to firstname.lastname@example.org