New Zealand's 'decades old' conservation law set for reform

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

New Zealand's "decades old and not fit for purpose conservation law" is set to receive an overhaul.

Kiri Allan.

Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan called the current law a "a complex web" of 24 different pieces of legislation, "developed largely on an ad-hoc basis over a span of nearly 70 years".

"Over this time our scientific understanding of species and ecosystems has grown considerably, but this is not reflected in the legislation."

The Wildlife Act will be reviewed – which Allan described as "often unclear and difficult to implement", adding it did not "do a good job when it comes to protecting some endangered species".

Allan said a key issue with the wildlife law was that many threatened New Zealand animals were omitted from being under its protection.

"The Wildlife Act is now 68 years old. To paint a picture of conservation values at the time, many people viewed kea as a pest because they sometimes attacked sheep. There was even a kea bounty up until 1970. You could earn $50 in today’s money for killing a kea," Allan said.

She also gave the example of DOC unable to relocate the newly appointed Bird of the Year – the pekapeka (long-tailed bats), that were living in trees which were on a new motorway. Rather, only an application to accidentally kill protected wildlife in the construction process from a developer or NZ's transport agency Waka Kotahi would be considered.

“Alongside work on the Wildlife Act, we are also preparing for more substantial reform down the track, with DOC looking at the full suite of conservation law and how it currently functions."

Changes to conversation management planning and trade in the Endangered Species Act will also be made.

The process to overhaul the laws will begin next year and is likely to be completed in 2025.

Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague welcomed the overhaul, but said it was important "that more urgent problems are dealt with now, rather than waiting on lengthy legislative reviews".

"Improvements are also needed to ensure obligations to give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi are properly embedded throughout conservation laws and processes."