Forest & Bird says the Government’s announcement today that it will allow coal mining and other industries to destroy remaining wetlands is disastrous for the climate and biodiversity.
Last night, the Government released a consultation document which confirms plans to allow ‘additional consenting pathways’ for a range of industries to destroy wetlands, as exceptions to the wetland protection rules in the 2020 National Environment Standard for Freshwater (NES-F).
“With consenting pathways proposed for quarrying, landfills, urban development, and mining including coal, it’s hard to imagine many industrial activities that now aren’t exempt from the rules that were supposed to protect wetlands,” says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Nicola Toki.
“New Zealand is in the midst of biodiversity and climate crises. Our remaining wetlands are essential in the fight to pull our native species back from the brink of extinction, and in storing carbon to keep climate change to within survivable limits.
“The Government has said climate change is our nuclear free moment, we have a newly minted Emissions Reduction Plan, and a national Biodiversity Strategy. Yet despite all this, Minister Parker has chosen to push ahead with a path that would allow industries like coal mining to keep destroying wetlands,” says Ms Toki.
Wetlands play a vital role in the health of Aotearoa’s biodiversity and climate, providing vast and long-term carbon sequestration, but 90% of New Zealand’s wetlands have already been destroyed by human activity, with more being lost every year.
The proposed exemptions have far-reaching implications for wetlands across New Zealand. They will enable dumps to destroy wetlands, urban development to drain waterways, and quarries around the country to bulldoze through fragile native ecosystems.
“This could be a situation of death by a thousand cuts, particularly for places like the Denniston Plateau, a significant wetland that’s home to numerous threatened plants and animals such as roroa great spotted kiwi. These proposals could allow coal companies to carry out widespread destruction of these types of ecosystem, and numerous other significant wetlands around the country, as well as contributing to global greenhouse gas emissions.
“With over 90% of our wetlands already destroyed, it’s crucial that the rules in the NES-F actually do prevent further destruction,” says Ms Toki.
“Forest & Bird believe the approach taken in this proposal is contrary to the Government’s own policies, which include ensuring no further loss of extent of natural inland wetlands, protecting the values of wetlands, and promoting their restoration.
“We have previously told Minister Parker we won’t stand by and allow the destruction of the few remnants of important wetlands to be legally facilitated. Forest & Bird will be submitting strongly against this.”