A proposed national plan to protect native plants, birds and animals has won Christchurch City Council approval, aligning with the wide-ranging and highly effective biodiversity protection policies already in place under the Council’s District Plan.
Councillors have endorsed a Council submission to the Ministry for the Environment that supports the draft National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (NPSIB).
The proposed policy aims to maintain and protect native biodiversity under the Resource Management Act (RMA) by identifying and managing Significant Natural Areas (SNAs).
Under the draft policy, all councils will be required to adhere to a single framework, rather than each having their own criteria. It will cover public, private and Māori land, protecting nationally significant areas containing native flora and fauna.
However, the Council is seeking that councils have more time to assess SNAs – some of which are on private land – in order to work with potentially affected landowners.
Councillor Pauline Cotter, who is Chairperson of the Council’s Three Waters Infrastructure and Environment Committee, says that the Council recognises the importance of a national framework and the need to protect native flora and fauna.
“However, our submission also acknowledges the importance of consultation with any landowners who may be affected by this proposed policy, and the impact on their land use,” Cr Cotter says.
“We need to work with landowners to achieve the best outcome, and that takes time.
“While we support the proposed policy, we must ensure that the best and most effective process is in place to assess SNAs and consult with landowners. Collaboration is key to the success of the policy.”
Under the proposed National Policy Statement, all councils will be required to identify those areas with significant vegetation and habitats of indigenous flora and fauna.
They will be responsible for managing the protection of those areas through regional and district plans, and consenting under the RMA.
The Council submission says that it “supports the requirement to implement nationally consistent criteria for the assessment and identification” of SNAs.
“While the Council could technically meet the (2025-26) time frame on the basis of desktop assessments, it would greatly reduce the opportunity for collaboration with landowners . . . and may result in the process remaining contentious despite the provision of clear and nationally consistent criteria.”
The Council submission seeks “either an extension of the timeframes . . . or that the NPSIB contains a more efficient process for the assessment and notification of SNAs”.
The Ministry for the Environment has developed the policy in tandem with the Biodiversity Collaborative Group, with a core group of members and wider representation from iwi and other stakeholders. These represent different agencies and backgrounds.
Consultation on the proposed policy closes on Saturday 14 March.