There are various non-regulatory methods which may be employed, along with appropriate regulatory provisions, to promote high quality environmental management. The following sections outline a number of non-regulatory methods, with a focus on biodiversity and coastal management.
Transfer of powers
A council may transfer aspects or specific areas of coastal management to iwi authorities under section 33 of the RMA. This enables a kaitiakitanga approach to coastal management to be implemented.
Design guidelines describe and illustrate the kinds of design solutions that the council is looking for in different coastal areas. This may include such considerations as the layout of lots, the location and scale of buildings in the landscape, the type and location of planting, the design of earthworks and the location of infrastructure.
A number of regional councils have prepared regional biodiversity strategies and action plans. These help to co-ordinate activity within a region, for example, through prioritising wetland restoration programmes or protection of forest remnants. These documents also provide direction and guidance to other regional and district planning processes, including long term council community plans, annual plans, regional plans and district plans.
There are generally two steps taken for strategic biodiversity planning at the regional level. First is the preparation of a region-wide strategic plan, and secondly is the preparation of a more focused biodiversity action plan dealing with specific biodiversity matters (such as wetland ecosystems or sand dunes). These strategic documents are not legally binding, but they are an important tool for outlining what the stakeholders, communities and landowners within a region want to achieve. They also play a valuable role in informing statutory processes about threats and desired biodiversity outcomes for the region.
Many government agencies, district and regional councils, research institutions and not-for-profit organisations offer a range of information and resources related to biodiversity management. These help to inform landowners and the wider public on biodiversity restoration activities and how threats to biodiversity can be managed. There is a huge variety in the types of material that are provided by these organisations. They include leaflets, DVDs, newsletters, website resources and media stories. There is also a range of educational workshops, funding sources and training opportunities offered by councils and other groups. Some organisations work directly with schools and other groups to provide advice on biodiversity management and restoration programmes. A useful booklet has been prepared by the Landcare Trust called ‘Benefits of Biodiversity for Farmers’ which highlights some of the ways farmers around New Zealand are promoting biodiversity on their land.
Benefits include: supports and encourages people to make their own decisions, can be targeted to local issues, generally information is provided free of charge. Weaknesses include: lacks strength of implementation and enforcement, can quickly become out of date and potentially offer incorrect advice, cannot be a standalone tool, needs to be incorporated with other mechanisms.
Regional biodiversity forums
The concept behind regional biodiversity forums is that they bring together all parties with an interest in managing biodiversity within a region in order to collaborate and cooperate. The Biodiversity Northland Forum was the first regional biodiversity forum to be established in New Zealand. There are now a number of forums around the country, including Northland, Waikato, Canterbury and Southland Biodiversity Forums. They play an important role in strategic biodiversity management through facilitating interagency partnerships (which jointly prioritise issues and pool resources and funding) and through the exchange of information.
Land and conservation covenants
There are a number of different covenant-based mechanisms that can be used by landowners to help protect biodiversity values on their land, including:
- Open space covenants under the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust Act 1977
- Ngā Whenua Rāhui kawenata for biodiversity protection on Māori land under the Reserves Act 1977
- Conservation covenants under the Reserves Act 1977 and the Conservation Act 1987
- Wildlife refuges under the Wildlife Act 1963
Conditions attached to subdivision consents granted under the RMA can also be recognised on property titles through the recording of a consent notice and these can restrict land use activities to help ensure that indigenous biodiversity values are maintained into the future.
Benefits include: usually instigated by the landowner, may be associated with funding or rates relief, can be a catalyst for wider habitat restoration and is enforceable through legislation. Weaknesses include: cannot be a standalone tool, needs to be incorporated with other mechanisms, including weed control and habitat restoration.
Land management agreements
Land management agreements are negotiated between council and landowners and may provide that the landowner receives some on-going financial compensation for foregoing development opportunities and providing other public benefits such as access to the land for the public.
Central government has directly supported some biodiversity initiatives undertaken by landowners, councils, communities and iwi through funding sources. It has specific funding for the QEII Trust and a range of contestable funds. The table below summarises the main national grants and funds that are available for biodiversity protection and restoration in New Zealand. In general, these types of funds cover the costs of covenanting, surveys, fencing, pest control, revegetation and on-going maintenance.
Contestable funds managed by district and regional councils offer protection and enhancement funding for priority ecosystems and habitats. Councils have also discounted the cost of invasive weed control on private land, provided annual rates relief for covenanted or protected areas, and provided funding for fencing and restoration planting.
Community care groups
Local voluntary partnerships are an important mechanism through which councils and landowners work together to protect and enhance biodiversity locally. These groups tend to be focused on particular habitats or ecosystems needing restoration, such as wetlands or dune restoration projects. Community care groups are generally funded by councils, government or through a trust of some form.
Coast care groups, which typically involve partnerships between the local community, iwi, councils and the Department of Conservation, undertake projects to help restore sand dunes by replanting native sand binding plants. They also complete projects involving fencing, signage, creating defined beach access routes, weed management, pest control, planting, public education, beach clean ups, and raising public awareness of coastal issues. Coast Care Bay of Plenty is run by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council (in partnership with the Department of Conservation and the district and city councils) and utilises local support to restore biodiversity along the coastline.
There are now significant voluntary efforts underway to restore coastal habitats throughout the country. The projects are increasingly being targeted towards achieving wider biodiversity gains. This shift in approach is now filtering its way into estuaries, with a growing number of estuary and harbour care groups being set up in recent years.
The harbour care groups restore native estuarine plant and bird habitats within local estuaries. They hold working bees to monitor birds, control animal and plant pests, monitor sediment levels in their estuary and, under certain conditions approved by resource consent, control mangroves.2 There are harbour care groups spread around the country, including the Whaingaroa (Raglan) Harbour Care Society in the Waikato region and the Apanui Saltmarsh Care Group in the Bay of Plenty region.
The New Zealand Landcare Trust is a non-government organisation focused on sustainable land management. Established in 1996, the Trust works with farmers, landowners and community groups nationwide, to improve sustainability of the natural environment. It assists local Landcare groups with their setting up and operational costs, as well as providing them with information and assistance on how to improve land and water management. The success of these groups is reliant on the establishment of good relationships between the organisation and landowners. The Trust also provides a portal for information sharing about biodiversity management tools and opportunities on productive land.
Voluntary pest management initiatives
A wide range of groups and individuals have an involvement in pest management, and are integral to achieving success in some areas.
Example: Sinbad Sanctuary Project
The Sinbad Sanctuary Project is a partnership between the Department of Conservation, the Fiordland Conservation Trust and Southern Discoveries. Sinbad Gully, which is a neighbour to Mitre Peak, is home to a number of very rare lizard species, as well as birds, large weta and other invertebrates. Southern Discoveries volunteers have worked with the Department of Conservation to set and check over pest traps.
Monitoring of the success of biodiversity restoration projects by the community is now becomingly increasingly common (such as water quality monitoring, animal pest population monitoring and native restoration plant success monitoring). There are a number of benefits that are realised from this approach, including improving community relationships with councils and the scientific community, and building community awareness of ecosystem processes and the varying threats to them.
Good land management practices
Biodiversity has many direct and indirect commercial production benefits. Research into the value that native species provide, through supporting essential ecosystem services to productive land, have been undertaken over a number of years. For example, recent research has demonstrated that the total economic value of the biological control of pests, soil formation and mineralisation of plant nutrients is significantly higher in land farmed organically than land farmed non-organically.
Good land management practices include planting native trees and shrubs, paddock margin maintenance using nature species, setting up permanent paddock ridges for beneficial insects, planting flowering native plants, and introducing native invertebrates.
Last updated at 4:09PM on February 3, 2015