Associate Environment Minister explains latest SNA suspension announcement

Associate Environment Minister explains latest SNA suspension announcement

Associate Environment Minister Andrew Hoggard announced last Thursday that the Government has agreed to suspend the requirement for councils to comply with the Significant Natural Areas (SNA) provisions for the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity for a period of three years.

The central discussion revolves around the complexities of balancing property rights with nature conservation, specifically within the context of New Zealand's agricultural sector and the reforms to the Resource Management Act (RMA). 

Hoggard elaborates on the government's directive allowing councils to bypass the significant natural areas provisions during the RMA's overhaul. This decision has sparked debate over its legality, drawing parallels with the Fitzgerald v Muldoon precedent, which addressed the limits of government power without legislative backing. 

Hoggard clarifies that the government's position is not yet law, stating, "That is the direction things will be heading once legislation is passed through Parliament." 

He contends that this approach is meant to signal the future of resource management and provide councils with a heads-up on forthcoming changes. The conversation then delves into the real-world actions of farmers who are proactively enhancing biodiversity on their lands, despite potential challenges from restrictive council regulations. 

Hoggard points out the positive trend in agricultural practices, noting, "I'm seeing trees being planted, not being cut down," emphasising that farmers are adapting to the changing environmental landscape. 

He argues against the disincentive that could arise if new plantings were to be suddenly classified as significant natural areas, burdening farmers with more regulations. Furthermore, Hoggard discusses the implementation of farm plans and industry-led good practice modules, like those from Dairy NZ and Beef and Lamb, which help farmers meet regulations efficiently and affordably. 

He highlights the success of these initiatives, particularly in Southland's improved winter grazing techniques, illustrating the sector's commitment to sustainable farming. As the conversation shifts to the political dimension, Hoggard responds to criticism from the Green Party, which considers the government's decision as potentially harmful to the country's natural world. 

He defends the government's stance, pointing out the practical outcomes of collaboration and voluntary conservation efforts.

"We've got 180,000 hectares that farmers have voluntarily put into these covenants... We've got about 2.8 million hectares of Native biodiversity on sheep and beef land." 

The conversation showcases the evolving relationship between agriculture, property rights, and environmental policy. It provides insight into how New Zealand's farming community is adapting to new expectations for biodiversity and sustainability, as well as the legislative and political challenges involved in this transition.

Listen to the full chat between Andrew Hoggard and Dominic George above.

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