Conserving Nature: Conservation Reform Issues Paper

By Deidre Koolen-Bourke and Raewyn Peart

August 2021

The conservation management system is crucially important to Aotearoa New Zealand. It provides front line protection for most of thecountry’s remaining intact ecosystems, including the last remnants of now rare indigenous habitats and native species that rely on themfor survival. It protects the environment in which mātauranga Māori evolved, which is vitally important for ensuring enduring culturalconnections to land and water. The conservation system also directly supports people and communities, who use conservation spacesfor aesthetic appreciation, and recreational enjoyment, and a growing conservation economy including a tourism industry supported by visitors seeking a wilderness experience.

This Report investigates the conservation system – the collection of laws, regulations, policies and institutions that are designedto conserve nature, and highlights current issues with its operation. It examines the conservation legal framework, conservationinstitutions, conservation planning, the management of stewardship land, concessions and species protection. It draws on an extensiveliterature review and numerous in-depth interviews with people directly involved in the system.

The Report concludes that there is a compelling and nationally significant need for Aotearoa New Zealand to rethink how it manages theconservation estate, threatened species and biodiversity. The conservation management and planning system is broken and needs to befixed. Biodiversity continues to decline, despite best efforts. And the system is not designed to work in partnership with Māori

Through identifying and describing current issues with the system, this Report makes a valuable contribution to the national debate onwhat changes are required and how to build an effective conservation management system for the future.

Caring for the Landscapes Synthesis Report

By Raewyn Peart, Cordelia Woodhouse, Shay Schlaepfer, Deidre Koolen-Bourke and Lara Taylor

February 2021

Aotearoa New Zealand’s distinctive natural and cultural landscapes are an integral part of our individual and collective well-being. But despite the importance of these landscapes, and this being recognised in law for close to 30 years, we are still seeing poor outcomes. This prompted the Environmental Defence Society to initiate a project to investigate why the landscape management system is failing and how it might be strengthened.

This Synthesis Report brings together a large body of work we have undertaken on landscape management. It includes the findings of four case studies focusing on landscape management in Te Manahuna Mackenzie Basin, Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū Banks Peninsula, the Waitākere Ranges and the Hauraki Gulf Islands. A fifth case study investigated potential linkages between tourism and landscape protection. The Report also includes an in-depth review of the case law and landscape assessment practices in Aotearoa New Zealand. We have investigated the application of a te ao Māori approach to landscape. In addition, we have included the findings of an in-depth international review of innovative landscape protection models.

Restoring Banks Peninsula

By Raewyn Peart and Cordelia Woodhouse

19 February 2021

Te Pātaka o Rākaihautu/Banks Peninsula is a unique and iconic landscape, quite different to anywhere else in Aotearoa. Its very steep and deeply incised terrain has created a vast array of microclimes which support rare and endemic species. It has a fascinating history which is closely intertwined with the rise of Ngāi Tahu in the South Island, early encounters between Māori and Europeans, and the formation of New Zealand as a new nation. It has experienced the worst excesses of an exploitative approach to nature, with over 99 per cent of its forest being destroyed by humans. A wide array of forest species have suffered as a result. But Banks Peninsula is also the location of a range of innovative initiatives aimed at healing the land and regenerating the forest.

The case study explores the history of this landscape, current and future pressures on it, and how the management system has responded. It investigates the impacts of farming, forestry, urban development, tourism and marine farming. It charts how central and local government policy has impacted land use, often in unintended ways. It finds that there is considerable potential to continue to heal the land on Banks Peninsula and create a thriving, biodiverse and sustainable working landscape that supports the community and nature. But to achieve this, government policy needs to be aligned to this end. The report contains a set of recommendations on how to achieve this.

Protecting the Hauraki Gulf Islands

By Raewyn Peart and Cordelia Woodhouse

November 2020

The Hauraki Gulf is a place of outstanding landscapes, rich
indigenous biodiversity and spiritual importance to Māori. It
is an area used by many to live and work, for recreation and
for the sustenance of human health, wellbeing and spirit. The
Gulf has been given an extra layer of statutory protection by
the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000.
This report investigates landscape protection on three
Hauraki Gulf islands with permanent settlement: Waiheke
Island, Aotea/Great Barrier Island and Rākino Island.
These islands each have a unique character and settlement
pattern. They face different, but in some cases overlapping,

The report charts the islands’ Māori and natural heritage;
historical, current and future pressures; statutory and
non-statutory management responses; and key issues
and opportunities. It examines the effectiveness of
the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act, statutory planning
provisions and other approaches. It concludes with a set of
recommendations on how to better protect and restore these
island gems for current and future generations.

Protecting the Waitakere Ranges

By Cordelia Woodhouse, Shay Schlaepfer and Raewyn Peart

November 2020

The Waitākere Ranges is an iconic volcanic and coastal landscape located on the western fringe of Auckland City. It includes windswept beaches, dunes, streams, wetlands, ridges, headlands, cliffs, islands and extensive coastal forests. Rolling pastoral foothills frame the bush-covered Ranges from the east, providing a buffer between the Ranges proper and the sprawl of metropolitan Auckland. These landscapes support a wide range of flora and fauna. In particular, the Ranges contain the largest area of contiguous indigenous vegetation within the Auckland region, including many kauri trees.

 Given their proximity to the country’s largest city, the Waitākere Ranges have long been under considerable development pressure. In addition, increasing visitor numbers, kauri dieback disease, weeds and pests have continued to take their toll on the area.

In 2008, the Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area Act was passed to provide the area with an extra layer of statutory protection. The legislation established the Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area which spans around 27,700ha of both public and privately-owned land. The approach taken was at the time, and still is, novel in the New Zealand context. This case study explores the effectiveness of the legislation in protecting the high landscape values of the area. It also provides a set of recommendations on how the current management regime can be further strengthened to ensure that the Waitākere Ranges are protected and restored for the benefit of future generations.

Mackenzie Basin & Landscape Protection

By Raewyn Peart and Cordelia Woodhouse

June 2020

In a new report released today, the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) has called for better protection of the Mackenzie Country through improved use of existing management tools as well as 2 new key initiatives: the establishment of a Mackenzie Drylands Protected Area, comprising publicly-owned land; and the creation of a Mackenzie Basin Heritage Landscape which would provide an extra protective layer over the balance of the Basin combined with substantial Government funding to support sustainable land management.

The report is one of a series of case studies EDS is undertaking as part of a broader investigation into landscape protection in New Zealand. Co-authored by EDS Policy Director Raewyn Peart and Solicitor Cordelia Woodhouse, the report examines the reasons behind ongoing landscape loss in the Mackenzie Basin and ways to remedy the situation. It was co-funded by the Department of Conservation and Land Information New Zealand.

Tourism and Landscape Protection

By Raewyn Peart and Cordelia Woodhouse

April 2020

Aotearoa New Zealand’s distinctive natural landscapes are an integral component of our individual and national well-being. But despite their importance, we are still seeing poor landscape outcomes. In order to address this matter, the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) has initiated a project to investigate how existing legislative and policy tools could be more effectively deployed to protect important natural landscapes, as well as how a new ‘protected landscapes’ model could be adopted to achieve better landscape protection in New Zealand.

The project includes a number of case studies. This case study is focused on investigating potential linkages between tourism and landscape protection, including identifying opportunities to develop positive synergies between tourism and landscape protection. An overall synthesis report for the project will be released later in 2020.

Most of the research for this case study was completed prior to the Covid-19 outbreak in March 2020 which has had catastrophic consequences for the tourism industry, at least in the short term. Our recommendations do their best to factor in the Covid-19 impacts, but this is a rapidly developing situation, and we recommend further work is undertaken once the situation and opportunities become clearer.

Healthy Seas: Implementing marine spatial planning in New Zealand

By Kelsey Serjeant and Raewyn Peart

September 2019

New Zealand faces considerable challenges in managing its extensive marine realm.

Marine spatial planning is increasingly being adopted overseas as a strategic, forwardlooking approach to managing current and future activities while ensuring the health of the marine environment. The Sea Change Tai Timu Tai Pari project in the Hauraki Gulf was the first fully-integrated marine spatial plan to be developed in New Zealand. Building on the lessons from the Sea Change project, and drawing on legal frameworks from seven jurisdictions around the world, this report explores non-statutory and statutory options for implementing marine spatial planning in New Zealand more widely.

It will be of considerable interest to marine policy makers, managers, advisors and users as well as everyone with an interest in ensuring a healthy marine environment.

A Review of the Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry) Regulations 2017

By Madeleine Wright, Sally Gepp and David Hall

April 2019

Are the settings right to incentivise “the right tree in the right place”, and is a high trust regulatory model the right fit for a high risk industry?

A report by: Environmental Defence Society Inc and Royal New Zealand Forest & Bird Protection Society of New Zealand

Turning the Tide: integrated marine planning in New Zealand

By Raewyn Peart

November 2018

Turning the Tide: Integrated marine planning in New Zealand. The report distils lessons from the Sea Change Tai Timu Tai Pari marine spatial planning project in the Hauraki Gulf, which was completed in 2016, and compares it with international best practice.

“Sea Change was the most ambitious marine planning project to be undertaken in New Zealand. Completing the plan was a major achievement,” said EDS Policy Director and report author Raewyn Peart.

“The project was ambitious and innovative. We compared it to leading overseas marine planning processes and found that the Hauraki Gulf project was world-leading in a number of respects.

“Most notable was the catchment-to-sea approach, embedding mātauranga Māori into the planning process, and using a stakeholder-led collaborative process for the plan’s development.

“One of the weaker elements of the Sea Change project has been implementation which requires a number of agencies from central and local government to engage together. This has proven challenging for them but we are hopeful that the Government will provide much-needed leadership on this shortly.

 “The conclusion from our review of the process is that Sea Change provides a solid base and very rich lessons which we can build on for future marine planning projects in New Zealand.

“There are other areas which would benefit from such an integrated marine planning approach, the Marlborough Sounds being a case in point.

“EDS is currently undertaking further research on how marine spatial planning can be embedded within New Zealand’s marine management system,” concluded Ms Peart.

Banking on Biodiversity

By Dr Marie A Brown

October 2017

The feasibility of biobanking in New Zealand.

The Environmental Defence Society has released a new research report aimed at exploring how habitat banking could contribute to the management of New Zealand’s biodiversity. The report is available to download at no charge.

Biobanking, where a formal structure is set up akin to a trading platform for habitat, holds some promise as a policy instrument to improve such transactions which are presently ad hoc and lack definition. But this report shows biobanking needs to be developed carefully so as not to do more harm than good. Internationally the approach has a history of poor implementation often because of bad design.

The report’s author, Dr Marie Brown, said that the way offsetting was undertaken at present was often deeply flawed and led to net biodiversity loss.

“Key weaknesses include poor compliance, lack of expertise in implementing offset projects and an inability to carry out offsets in advance of impacts. Biobanking could help address some of these issues,” said Dr Brown.

“The mitigation hierarchy – avoid, remedy, mitigate - should be pursued vigilantly and offsetting brought to play only where there are unavoidable, residual impacts on biodiversity. But the weak policy framework for offsetting must be addressed first.

“The report’s overall conclusion is that biobanking has a potentially useful role in formalising an offsetting regime but there is more work to do before it could be credibly used in New Zealand, including strengthening the legal basis for offsetting,” said Marie Brown.

Evaluating the environmental outcomes of the RMA

By Marie A Brown, Raewyn Peart, Madeleine Wright

28 September 2016

A summary document on the report can be downloaded here.

The purpose of this project is to explore whether the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) has delivered desired environmental outcomes for New Zealand. It is intended to complement wider assessments of the efficacy of the Act. The project is focused on gathering the best available information on the state of the environment in New Zealand and the influence of the RMA on that state. This evidence is intended to help enable an informed discussion on the future of the RMA.
The RMA was the first legislation internationally to enshrine the concept of sustainability in its overriding purpose which is ‘to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources’. Now in its 25th year, the profile of the Act remains high amongst observers of environmental and economic management and it is highly visible compared with other legislation.

Often amended and much-discussed, the Act’s impact on economic and environmental outcomes is a common topic of conversation, although more the former than the latter. Often missing from this discussion is an empirical element. The critical issue really is, has the RMA delivered on its environmental goals and if not, why not? This is the key question that this report seeks to answer.

Report of the EDS TAG on the review of Sections 6 & 7 of the RMA 1991

April 2012

Report of the Environmental Defence Society Technical Advisory Group on the review of Sections 6 & 7 of the Resource Management Act 1991.

Governing Our Oceans: Environmental Reform for the EEZ

By Raewyn Peart, Kate Mulcahy & Kelsey Serjeant

April 2011

This policy paper canvasses lessons learnt from the BP Gulf oil spill and international best practice to develop practical recommendations for the way forward to strengthen environmental management of New Zealand's EEZ.

Improving Environmental Governance: The Role of an EPA in New Zealand

By Raewyn Peart

June 2009

Environmental Protection Authorities (EPAs) are a common feature in other developed countries. There is much to be learnt from their experiences. To inform the design of the New Zealand model, EDS has undertaken preliminary research on EPAs in Western Australia, Victoria, Ireland, Scotland, Sweden and Denmark.

This paper draws on the results of this research. It is informed by previous work undertaken by EDS on the operation of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) more generally, and on the effectiveness of landscape protection and coastal and marine management in particular. The paper also reflects EDS's long experience of litigating on RMA matters. A draft paper was circulated for peer review and this final paper has also benefited from the knowledge and insights of many of the reviewers identified in the acknowledgements.

The Community Guide to Coastal Development under the Resource Management Act 1991

By Raewyn Peart


This Guide has been written for people who want to know more about how to promote high quality coastal development under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). It provides information for those who would like to obtain better development outcomes for the coast. It also gives assistance for people designing coastal developments and preparing resource consent applications for such developments under the RMA. The Guide primarily addresses the impacts of residential development on land within the coastal environment. It seeks to describe what ‘good practice’ coastal planning and development under the RMA might look like rather than what the minimum requirements are under the Act.

The Community Guide to Landscape Protection under the Resource Management Act 1991

By Raewyn Peart


This Guide has been written for people who want to know more about landscape protection under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). It provides information for those who would like to obtain better protection for landscapes which they value. It also provides information for people preparing resource consent applications (under the RMA) for proposals which may impact on landscape values. The Guide focuses on the protection of landscapes on privately-owned land in rural areas. It does not address the protection of landscapes in urban areas.

Last updated at 1:51PM on October 21, 2021