“Our indigenous biodiversity is a taonga, and there is no doubt that a national approach is required to protect it. But if we want the NPS-IB to be effective, then the Government needs to do a stocktake of the skills required to carry it out,” says LGNZ President Stuart Crosby.
“Finding the staff to identify significant natural areas (SNAs) and incorporate them into district plans within the proposed five-year window, will be a struggle,” says Director of Policy & Advocacy Grace Hall.
“As it stands there aren’t enough ecologists to undertake the reporting. There’s also a lack of specialist council staff to assess and evaluate those reports.
“Some larger councils already employ these experts inhouse, but others will have to contract those skills in. We need to avoid a situation where we’re all competing with each other for the same people.
“To ease this pressure, LGNZ is recommending the Government provides councils with five years to identify SNAs within their district and ten years to include them in their district plan.
“Councils would also need further Government support if they were to meet the true costs of implementing this work.
“The $19 million currently allocated nationally isn’t enough. If it isn’t increased councils will be left picking up the tab.
“Some councils are in a situation where they cover large land areas but have a small population, which means ratepayers would face disproportionate increases. This is the case for places like Southland, whose District Council conservatively estimated the cost of implementation at $10 million in 2020.
“Councils already do a lot of good work in this space and are firmly on board with the Government’s ambition to protect and restore indigenous biodiversity. But we are deeply worried that this is another example of reforms not being linked up.
“There’s a lack of details on how the NPS-IB will be integrated with the upcoming changes to resource management.
“We need a transition plan that shows how council’s roles and responsibilities under the NPS-IB will transition to the new resource management structure.
“Without one, ratepayer dollars and council resource risk going to waste,” Grace Hall said.
Our full submission, made jointly with Taituarā is available here.