Update on indigenous biodiversity

// Biodiversity

The following was emailed to farmers on 7 July. UPDATE: due to technical issues, some farmers may not have received this email or may receive it late – we apologise for this.

image of native trees by river

Update on indigenous biodiversity – including what you can do

B+LNZ, with Federated Farmers and Deer Industry New Zealand, wrote to Ministers requesting them to pause work on the Indigenous Biodiversity National Policy Statement (NPS). This was driven by concerns over the timing of the release of the exposure draft legislation, with farmers already facing a deluge of climate, conservation and water policy changes. Read more about this here.

The Government has responded, saying it will not consider pausing this work or extending the consultation period.

Our concerns about the biodiversity NPS remain

  • The Government’s position is that changes have been made to address some of the earlier concerns – but B+LNZ notes the detail contained in the legislation does not match the stated intent. 
  • To be clear, B+LNZ is not opposed to protecting and enhancing indigenous biodiversity – our farmers are passionate about biodiversity and are actively protecting and restoring indigenous habitats. However, policies should ensure that biodiversity is an asset rather than a liability.
  • We are asking for some fundamentally important changes.
  • Our main concern is that the criteria for identifying Significant Natural Areas (SNAs) is still too wide. They will include virtually all areas of native biodiversity and this could be hugely restrictive for landowners on a significant proportion of their farms. 
  • Farmers will also have no clear indication of what areas are genuinely significant. 
  • There will be perverse outcomes, and farmers who have done the most to protect and enhance indigenous biodiversity will be the most tied up in red tape as a result. 
  • We also have concerns about the poor quality implementation package around the legislation. Farmers are being told they need to spend time and money maintaining biodiversity, which supports broader ecosystem services, without adequate recognition or support. 

What B+LNZ is doing

  • We are replying to Ministers, saying we still disagree with their position and that we urge them to reconsider. We will keep asking for a pause and/or a longer consultation period. 
  • In parallel and regardless of the outcome of our correspondence with Ministers, we’re working on our submission to ensure our sector’s views are represented. We’ll publish this submission when it’s finalised.
  • We continue to work with other industry groups. 
  • We are gathering real-world examples from farmers about how the draft legislation will impact them. We want to show the extent of farms that will be captured by the wide criteria and what this will mean for those farmers. 
  • We have commissioned an assessment from an independent environmental consultant, whose assessment backs our stance. 
  • We have also been in contact with experts such as David Norton from the University of Canterbury (who has previously undertaken research into the amount of native vegetation on sheep and beef farms) – Professor Norton has publicly criticised the NPS noting that the criteria proposed for identifying SNAs are too broad.

What you can do 

1) Help inform B+LNZ’s submission – we’ll be making a submission and information you provide will strengthen that, particularly through providing real examples of integrating indigenous biodiversity into farming systems. We’ve developed a brief farmer survey containing four targeted questions. 

2) Contact your local MP – tell them your concerns. Key points to include are:

  • you understand the criteria for SNAs is still too wide  
  • more time is needed to test the effects of this and to get the rules right before it creates issues
  • our sector is hugely supportive of indigenous biodiversity but does not believe that the draft legislation will achieve its intended aims. 

3) Make your own submission – we’ll be providing guidance on this, which will be available by early next week at the latest. The consultation closes on 21 July and the material is on the Ministry for the Environment website

A final word on biodiversity

We understand this is a busy and challenging time for farmers. B+LNZ will make a strong submission on behalf of our sector, backed by real-world examples. We strongly encourage you to complete the brief survey to help inform our submission and, as always, you’re welcome to contact us directly. 

We’ll keep advocating for a system that works for farmers by allowing you to protect biodiversity, and be acknowledged for this, while practically and successfully farming.

Sam McIvor, B+LNZ CEO / Andrew Morrison, B+LNZ Chair