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Government's biodiversity document lauded by farmers' union

Published: Wed 7 Aug 2019 10:23 AM
6 August 2019
Eric Frykberg, Reporter
The government's latest biodiversity document could ease the financial burden on farmers who preserve native bush on their own land at their own expense, according to Federated Farmers.
The document calls for a focus on ending the extinction of threatened species. Pictured are the flightless takahē birds at the Burwood Breeding Centre (file photo). Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance
It said this would be a big step forward.
The document also called on state agencies and private groups to work together for environmental improvement, and this also got a tick of approval from Federated Farmers.
The organisation was commenting on a new discussion document on biodiversity, called Te Koiroa O Te Koiroa, or a shared vision for living with nature.
This document lamented a loss of biodiversity over several centuries and called for: an end to the extinction of species, restoration of habitats and removal of invasive predators.
"We all need to do more on public, private and Māori land, so nature can thrive," Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage said while unveiling the document.
This emphasis on collaboration was welcomed by Federated Farmers' environment spokesperson Chris Allen.
He said state agencies working with private landowners would work far better than a process-based purely on government regulation.
"You don't have to be a Greenie to have exclusive rights to be caring for the environment," he said.
"There are farmers with a multi-generational connection with the land, who have fought against [past] government policies of trying to clear the land.
"That is why we have got some really spectacular bush on farms."
Wider community should contribute through 'rates relief'
Mr Allen said this commitment to nature by farmers made a part of the document really welcome news.
This section referred to farmers who pay for biodiversity out of their own pocket.
"If landowners decide to set aside land for biodiversity, perhaps in a Queen Elizabeth II covenant or Ngā Whenua Rāhui kawenata, they bear a cost while the benefits of enhanced biodiversity are spread much more widely," the document said.
"[The government should] implement a consistent national approach to rates relief for covenanted and other protected private land."
Mr Allen welcomed this acknowledgement for the efforts many farmers make off their own bat.
"It's a huge investment for a landowner to basically give away a piece of land in perpetuity," he said.
"They still have to protect it from predators and fence it and this stuff doesn't come cheap.
"In many cases, they don't get any assistance from the wider community, so what we have said is that the wider community has to contribute through rates relief or whatever.
"That is all part of the discussion document."
The government has said this latest document will be followed by a national policy statement.
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