Forest & Bird is calling out the Government for backtracking on crucial freshwater reforms. The proposal to allow mining, quarrying, landfills, and urban development to destroy wetlands was quietly released as a consultation called Managing our wetlands by the Ministry for the Environment in early September.
“This proposal makes a mockery of attempts made to address the loss of wetlands and the degraded state of freshwater in New Zealand,” says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague.
“Allowing further destruction of wetlands is also directly contrary to the Climate Change Commission’s advice.
“Wetlands are critically important – at storing carbon, reducing flood flows, and providing habitat for native species.”
Over 90% of wetlands in Aotearoa have been destroyed, with more continuing to be lost through poor compliance and bad resource management decisions.
“The new rules, which we only gained a year ago, are absolutely crucial in turning around the loss of wetlands in Aotearoa,” says Mr Hague.
Except in limited circumstances, the National Environment Standard on Freshwater Management made earthworks within or near a natural wetland a prohibited activity if those works are likely to drain the wetland.
But the new consultation, which closes on 27 October, proposes ‘additional consenting pathways’ for a range of industries giving them the ability to destroy wetlands.
The proposal could enable dumps to destroy wetlands, urban development to drain waterways, and hundreds of quarries around the country to bulldoze through fragile native ecosystems.
In addition to pathways for industry, the changes further dilute the definition of a natural wetland, leaving a path open for drainage, agricultural conversion and heavy grazing, says Forest & Bird. www.forestandbird.org.nz