< August 2023 newsletter

The co-governance juggernaut rolls on

On nearly every front, the Government is creating separate and unequal rights in the name of the Treaty. Undemocratic co-governance policies implemented by the Labour government now extend to the management of significant natural areas (SNAs) - including those on privately owned land.  

The National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity (NPS–IB), which came into force on August 4, requires local government to “form strong and effective partnerships with tangata whenua” to provide direction in all aspects of the management of indigenous biodiversity, such as the identification of SNAs and decision-making on the management of such. The NPS-IB states that:

“Every local authority must involve tangata whenua (to the extent they wish to be involved) as partners in the management of indigenous biodiversity”. And: 

“Every territorial authority must work in partnership with tangata whenua of any rohe in their district, using an agreed process, to determine the indigenous species, populations, and ecosystems in that rohe that are taonga (and these are acknowledged taonga)” 

The Regulatory Impact Statement accompanying the NPS-IB identifies “Wai 262” – a Waitangi Tribunal report - as the basis for implementing the partnership concept. Wai 262 directs the Crown, as far as practicable, to “ensure that iwi and hapū have authority over taonga such as traditional knowledge, artistic and cultural works, important places, and flora and fauna, core aspects of Māori culture and identity.

The forced adoption of Māori spiritual beliefs and practices  

Officially, our secular state has no place imposing religious or cultural practices on other people. However, despite the NZ Bill of Rights - which affirms the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and beliefs - decisions made under the NPS-IB are subject to a set of decision-making principles that are based on Māori spiritual beliefs and cultural practices. Among other matters, these principles seek to prioritise the mauri of indigenous biodiversity and enable the application of te ao Māori and mātauranga Māori. This includes acknowledging the interconnectedness between communities and indigenous species, including at a physical and metaphysical level. 

As Caleb Anderson writes in his commentary ‘The Emergence of a State Religion’

“When you move into the realm of the mystical, reason no longer applies, and familiar democratic safeguards can be progressively dismantled”.

Additionally, indigenous biodiversity is to be managed in a way that takes into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, which we are told are constantly evolving – thereby placing further nebulous obligations on landowners which could change at any time. 

Undemocratic decision-making

It is one thing to have democratically accountable governing bodies making decisions that will lead to restrictions on the use of private property. It is quite another to have a group of citizens, identified in the NPS-IB as tangata whenua, directly involved in the decision-making and management of areas that include private land. This is especially galling when not all land is treated equally. A tailored approach has been created for Māori, with exemptions from the obligations placed on other landowners. When it comes to the development of Māori land, provision is made "to enable new occupation, use, and development of specified Māori land to support the social, cultural, and economic wellbeing of tangata whenuaand “recognise that there are circumstances where development will prevail over indigenous biodiversity”. 

Further race-based policy

New Zealand has laws around compensation for land taken under the Public Works Act 1981, but this is not extended to cases when additional restrictions such as SNAs are imposed. To make this point, in 2020 the then Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage ruled out any government compensation for landholders with large SNAs on their properties. On the other hand, councils must consider incentive opportunities for specified Māori land: 

Local authorities must consider and realise opportunities to provide incentives for the protection and maintenance of indigenous biodiversity, and the protection of SNAs and identified taonga, on specified Māori land”. 

For more about SNAs, read the Democracy Action article June 2021: ‘NEW RULES SET TO ENCROACH ON PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS

Note: The NPS-IB has been developed under the Resource Management Act, which the Government plans to repeal and replace with the Natural and Built Environment Act (NBA) before the upcoming 2023 election. The NPS-IB will be transitioned into the new National Planning Framework developed under the NBA.


We are aware that ACT has vowed to get rid of SNAs, while Labour and the Greens support this policy. With the upcoming election just around the corner, this is an opportune time to question the parties about the NPS-IB. Please take every opportunity to do so. 


Contact your local council, email [email protected], or visit environment.govt.nz.  The general summary information sheet provides an overview of key aspects of the NPSIB. There are also specific information sheets for tangata whenua, farmers and growers, forest owners and managers, infrastructure providers and urban developers.


The National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity

MfE: National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity General summary

MfE: Regulatory Impact Statement: Maintaining Indigenous Biodiversity under the RMA 1991

Baseline Group: New Indigenous Biodiversity Legislation Mandates Significant Natural Area Identification

Buddle Findlay: National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity released

Anderson Lloyd: National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity 2023

Landcare Research: Indigenous Māori knowledge and perspectives of ecosystems

DOC: National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity - Section 32 Evaluation and Cost Benefit Analysis - Appendix C Case Study Spatial Analysis 


RNZ: James Shaw launches biodiversity regulations and proposal for credits system 

Farmers Weekly: Feds flags ‘increased uncertainty' in new SNA regs 

Feds News: Biodiversity directions ‘disappointing’

Go back to the August 2023 newsletter


Te Tai o Poutini submission deadline extended

The Te Tai o Poutini Committee has extended the submission deadline for the draft combined district plan (for the Buller, Grey Westland District Councils and the West Coast Regional Council) to 28 October 2022. This is largely due to a mapping “glitch” that saw landowners on the West Coast receive a letter advising their property was affected by a newly designated site and area of significance to Māori, some of which were inaccurate.   Continue reading

New rules set to encroach on private property rights

Anger has erupted around the country over the Government’s much stronger approach to protect indigenous biodiversity, as outlined in the Draft National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (NPSIB). Due to take effect in July 2021, it contains a set of objectives and policies to identify, protect, manage, and restore indigenous biodiversity. Continue reading