Discover more from Future Proof
This new biodiversity policy is a game-changer
Significant Natural Areas are ‘the best bits we’ve got left’.
Kia ora, welcome to Future Proof. I’m Ellen, thanks for joining me this week.
A couple of weeks ago, the National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity (NPSIB) finally crossed the finish line, unveiled by associate environment minister James Shaw at an event in Kerikeri.
Professor Bruce Clarkson, an ecologist at the University of Waikato who advised on the policy, is “thrilled” to see decades of hard work finally come to fruition. “I didn't know until 10 minutes before the launch that it was going to be gazetted and I'm still in a state of shock to some extent,” he says. “I believe it's really critical that we have this platform.”
So what does the NPSIB actually say, and why is it so important?
Reversing biodiversity decline
Biodiversity in Aotearoa is on a precipitous trajectory towards collapse and extinction, and this new policy statement is an important tool for turning around the fortunes of our ailing native species and ecosystems. Clarkson says it’s the final piece of the policy jigsaw puzzle, providing the overarching framework to make our biodiversity aspirations – as outlined in the national biodiversity strategy – a reality. “This gives clarity about the priority we give to indigenous biodiversity. It requires councils to provide some leadership.” The policy requires every regional council to prepare a regional biodiversity strategy, monitor biodiversity, restore degraded areas and reach at least 10% native vegetation cover in urban and non-urban areas.
SNAs: The best bits we’ve got left
Plus, the policy provides clear direction for identifying Significant Natural Areas, or SNAs. While around one-third of New Zealand’s land area is already under some form of protection as part of the conservation estate, this patchwork of conservation land is strongly biased towards alpine areas. SNAs on private or Māori land are “the best bits of what’s left in the coastal and lowland zones,” says Clarkson. “If we're serious about truly protecting all biodiversity, you can't do it without addressing the issue of significant natural areas.”
SNAs have previously been an object of ire for some landowners, farmers and iwi – in part, Clarkson reckons, due to the way councils have communicated. He says many landowners already know that what they have is important. “They don't need some government agency to send them a rude letter. They need an honest and fair conversation.” Once identified, the NPSIB requires the protection of SNAs, while adverse effects due to development activities must be avoided or managed.
‘A significant and collaborative win’
Reactions to the NPSIB have been largely positive, with Forest & Bird calling it “a significant win for native species and habitats”. Hinerangi Himiona (Ngāphui nui tonu), organiser of a 2021 hīkoi opposing SNAs, told the Northern Advocate that “the new policy statement showed the government was working more closely with Māori on biodiversity protection.” However, West Coast miners are unhappy with the legislation, which they say “unfairly demonises coal production”.
Clarkson says the NPSIB is just the starting point, and that he’s now looking forward to implementation of the policy. “It’s going to be about the money at the end of the day. Where is the funding, where is the incentive to keep people focused on achieving the reversal of biodiversity decline?” Because ultimately, he says, “every species we lose is a lost opportunity.” Native organisms have a right to be here, to persist and thrive – and in most cases, they were here first. “It’s a question of our natural heritage. For goodness sake, we are meant to be New Zealanders, right?”
Support independent journalism in Aotearoa by becoming a Spinoff member.
It’s because of our members that our small team of journalists are able to cover stories the length and breadth of New Zealand, then tell them in an engaging and compelling way. From up-to-the-minute news and sharp political reporting, to stories that delight and entertain – it's all made possible thanks to the support of readers like you. Tautoko mai, become a member today.
In the northern hemisphere, climate-fuelled heatwaves
A new rapid attribution study has found that the current heatwaves engulfing Europe and the US would be “virtually impossible” without climate change, Carbon Brief reports. Likewise, the heatwave in China is “50 times more likely” due to climate change. The sweltering “Cerberus” heatwave in Europe even has Germans, long-time haters of siesta, reconsidering the mid-afternoon nap as a way to beat the heat. The BBC Future team has compiled science-backed tips for staying cool, including staying hydrated, going for a swim and eating spicy food to make you sweat more.
This month is set to be the world’s hottest in “hundreds, if not thousands of years”, says Gavin Schmidt, director of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In Iran, the heat index (or “feels like” temperature) recently reached a mind-boggling 66.7°C at the Persian Gulf Airport.
Feel the fear, do it anyway
All the news about wildfires and world-breaking records and deadly heat is making me and many people I know feel despondent and overwhelmed and sad. If you feel that way, know you’re not alone. Also maybe consider that climate anxiety is not a “maladaptive” response to climate change, but rather a perfectly reasonable one, and one that we can channel into action. A recent study suggests that climate anxiety can spur more eco-friendly actions at the individual level. But of course that’s not always easy, as Danny Rood explains on The Spinoff: our markets and systems aren’t set up to facilitate the best climate choices. But there are still solutions, Rood says.
Haere mai, chunky moss chickens! How exciting to welcome four male kākāpō back to the mainland. Definitely worth a road trip to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari.
The latest Stats NZ figures reveal a slow but steady decline in greenhouse gas emissions – not yet reaching the pace we need to meet our emissions reduction targets, but still a good sign.
Biden’s big climate law from last year – the Inflation Reduction Act – is (kind of) working, a new analysis suggests.
An Oxford study finds that if the UK’s most voracious meat eaters cut back, it would be “like taking 8 million cars off the road”.
In North America, unused office buildings are being converted to vertical farms – utilising existing heating, aircon and ventilation systems to grow tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers and greens.
Eunice Newton Foote published a paper in 1856 that laid the foundation for modern climate science. But three years later, a man would be credited instead. Now, Foote is finally being recognised for her work.
Abigail Disney, the great-niece of Walt Disney and a once-prolific private jet passenger, was arrested while blocking private jets at an airport in New York. Disney explains why she took action.
This man wants you to grow your own toilet paper: Inside the lives of zero-waste activists.
To finish this edition, please enjoy these scientists freaking out when they discover the world’s fourth known deep-sea octopus nursery off the coast of Costa Rica. On their Octopus Odyssey expedition, the researchers observed three different octopus species, including one that might be new to science, hanging out at 3km below the surface of the ocean. That’s deep.
Have an ink-redible week,
Got some feedback about Future Proof or topics you’d like covered? Get in touch with me at email@example.com