Federated Farmers backs key themes of biodiversity strategy
5 August 2019
A proposed new national biodiversity strategy that speaks about enabling and supporting communities “to connect with nature in their own way” strikes the right note, Federated Farmers says.
“We’re on board with the direction of the five key ‘system shifts’ in the Te Koiora o Te Koiora (Our Vision for Nature) discussion document – co-ordination, empowerment of iwi and communities, delivering joined-up work across the landscape and the need for innovation and technology to transform biodiversity management,” Feds environment spokesperson Chris Allen says.
“The strategy recognises all Kiwis and sectors of society need to work together to protect our native species and habitat, which is just what we’ve been saying about other challenges in front of us, such as water quality and climate change.”
Many farmers are active on their own properties protecting bush, birdlife, wetlands and other biodiversity; they have a special connection to the land, and not just to make a living. Farmers are also integral to many of the hundreds of community and catchment groups putting environmental protection into action.
“So the strategy’s talk of enabling and supporting communities to take action, and joining up smaller scale efforts into integrated landscape approaches, is spot on,” Allen said.
Te Koiora o Te Koiora mentions the worth – and need for support - of the QEII covenants many landowners have voluntarily vested bush and wetlands under, often at their own considerable cost. The strategy says incentives and market mechanisms could be better utilised to drive conservation decision-making and notes that New Zealand provides comparatively few incentives for landowners to conserve biodiversity.
The need for investment to fill the gaps in scientific knowledge, more comprehensive data collection as well as innovating for the future have long been supported by farmers. The report says we’re still trying to manage biodiversity with tools developed 50 years ago.
“We can’t do everything at once, so Federated Farmers backs the call for prioritising, and measurable goals to be checked and reviewed at milestone years – 2025, 2030 and all the way out to 2070.
“Ecological timeframes extend beyond a human lifetime. It’s not like changing the speed limit on a road. In most instances, longer timeframes will be needed to achieve goals – and this is a frustration we have with a range of environmental processes. No sooner is the ink dry on strategies and plans, and the public and environmental groups are crying ‘failure’. Meanwhile, the good work continues on at farm and catchment level, but the benefits from changes can take more time than realised.”
However, Federated Farmers has misgivings about the idea of including biodiversity management into Farm Environment Plans. “FEPs need to be useful and practical for farmers, not a box ticking bureaucratic exercise, or a way to impose additional expectations on landowners,” Allen said.
“Encouragement through provision of advice, tools, incentives and community conservation hubs, which are also mentioned in the strategy, is much more likely to succeed.”