Government suspends Significant Natural Areas requirement to replace Resource Management Act

Government suspends Significant Natural Areas requirement to replace Resource Management Act

In a move to address concerns over property rights and conservation efforts, Associate Environment Minister Andrew Hoggard announced on Thursday that the Government has agreed to suspend the requirement for councils to comply with the Significant Natural Areas (SNA) provisions of the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity for a period of three years. 

This decision comes as the government works on replacing the Resource Management Act (RMA).

"As it stands, SNAs identified on private property limit new activities and development that can take place on that property. In their current form they represent a confiscation of property rights and undermine conservation efforts by the people who care most about the environment: the people who make a living from it," Hoggard said.

The move to suspend the SNA requirement aligns with the commitments outlined in the ACT-National coalition agreement, where the government pledged to cease the implementation of new SNAs. This suspension will allow the government to carry out necessary reforms under the RMA without burdening councils and communities with potentially changing national direction requirements.

"I have also asked for a review of the operation of existing SNAs more broadly, including those implemented under the powers that councils have in the RMA. This review is being scoped now," Hoggard added.

Despite the suspension, it's crucial to note that the requirement for councils to protect areas with significant indigenous biodiversity under the RMA introduced in 1991 remains unchanged. Other provisions of the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity, including the management of existing SNAs, will continue to apply.

New Zealand currently boasts 180,000 hectares of privately owned land under QEII covenants, showcasing a significant commitment to conservation by private landowners. Hoggard emphasised the importance of collaboration with these landowners.

"This Government will be taking a collaborative approach with them, rather than undermining their rights."

Highlighting the government's commitment to protecting property rights, Hoggard warned against the potential consequences of overregulation on conservation efforts. 

"If government takes away property rights there’s no incentive to be a conservationist. Ill-conceived regulations such as SNAs and the NPS Indigenous Biodiversity put roadblocks in place and turn biodiversity and conservation efforts into a liability."

The decision to suspend the SNA requirement underscores the government's efforts to strike a balance between conservation objectives and property rights. 

By initiating reforms under the RMA and conducting a comprehensive review of existing SNAs, the government aims to ensure efficient resource utilisation while safeguarding New Zealand's biodiversity for future generations.