ECO Submission Summary: Biosecurity 2025.

The Ministry for Primary Industries released a discussion document on directions for biosecurity in New Zealand and called for public comment.  You can read the discussion document here and ECO’s full submission on our website.

ECO reviewed and provided suggestions for the the Ministry for Primary Industries’ direction statement for biosecurity. The Ministry defined biosecurity as the exclusion, eradication, or effective management of risks posed by pests and diseases to the economy, environment, and human health. The document proposed 5 strategic directions for biosecurity in New Zealand, which are for all New Zealanders to participate in biosecurity, to invest in science and research to revolutionize biosecurity, to have free-flowing information highways, to work towards effective leadership and government, and to build a capable and sustainable workforce and infrastructure.

ECO agreed with the Ministry’s approach of widening the scope of biosecurity to include all New Zealanders. However, ECO noticed that there was no discussion in the proposition regarding who will pay for all of these biosecurity improvements and is wary of a “victim pays” approach. As a solution, ECO proposed a biosecurity import levy. ECO also noted that the document focused on plants and animals while overlooking fungi and micro-organisms which are also vital to New Zealand’s natural environment.

ECO suggested that the Ministry draws on literature and evidence about what inhibits pro-environmental behaviour in order to strategise actions that could change and harness these attitudes. On a related note, ECO was wary of the Ministry’s focus on investing in the sciences and suggested also engaging the social sciences. ECO also suggested caution regarding free-flowing information highways because many rural New Zealanders are protective of their privacy and this strategy could be interpreted as a loss of autonomy or privacy. In general, ECO agreed on all of the strategies proposed by the Ministry with some minor suggestions for improvement.

ECO Submission Summary: the Conservation and Environment Science Roadmap

The Department of Conservation and Ministry for the Environment are working together to identify the areas of scientific knowledge which will be required by government over the next 20 years for decision-making for conservation and environmental policy and management.  This is known as the “roadmap”.

Submissions from interested groups and individuals were invited and ECO made a submission in response to the government discussion paper, which is on the DOC website.

We have summarised our submission below.  The full text of the ECO submission is available on the ECO website here.

Submission Summary:

ECO provided suggestions for improvements to the Conservation and Environment Science Roadmap. The roadmap is a document outlining 12 topics related to environmental science and the ways in which the government, private sector, non-governmental organizations, and individuals can make positive decisions regarding the environment. ECO believes that regarding climate change, the listed goals are too weak and that the roadmap places too much emphasis on raising awareness. The roadmap should encourage a real programme of actions to reduce greenhouse gas emission, such as a goal to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050 rather than the proposed 30% reduction.

While ECO understands the appeal of new environmental technology, it opposes carbon capture and storage because the environmental impacts are not fully known or understood and because it could be used as an excuse to not de-carbonize the economy. ECO also criticized the overarching goal of protecting “highest priority” populations as not being ambitious enough; by referring to some species as “highest priority” it implies giving up on others and this is unacceptable to ECO. ECO also notes that it supports the inclusion of Mātauranga Māori but cautions against the vigorous assertion of Maori property rights at the expense of the health of the environment itself.

Other topics covered in the roadmap included the ecosystems and processes of freshwater, land, coastal and marine, and urban environments as well as biosecurity, and the social and economic dimensions of conservation. In general, ECO felt that the roadmap was too sensitive and had too much “spin” and could benefit from being more blunt or direct. ECO also recommended the addition of topics such as the atmosphere, environmental legal and policy research, and the study of energy alternatives.

Summary written by ECO volunteer Adena Maier

How Drones are Helping Conservation Efforts

Author Emma Mills is a wildlife enthusiast and writer who came across a site where drone footage is made publicly available, including that of nature and wildlife.  Emma considers the many uses of this drone footage for conservation and safer tourism – and what we in New Zealand can learn from it.

Could New Zealand learn something from big game conservation in Africa? Up and down the continent, governments and NGOs are working on integrating drone technology into their conservation efforts. For two centuries or more, magnificent animals such as lions, rhinos, and elephants have been hunted to near extinction levels for their pelts, tusks, and horns. Drones are now becoming part of the effort to save those still existing in the wild.

A New Tool Against Poachers

Drones combine relatively discrete movements with the ability to access difficult locations and create film footage. The main use of drones in Africa is to help protect so-called big game from poachers who want to sell body parts on the black market either as trophies or for pseudo-medical purposes. Some parts of the middle east also want big cat kittens as pets, which usually means the killing of their parents. Drones provide a flexible and easily moved means of monitoring wildlife populations and scouting for potential poachers. This allows conservationists to better deploy their police and gamekeepers to combat them.

Protecting Gamekeepers from the Animals

Big game in Africa does not know the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. Looking after, protecting, and monitoring large animals such as these is a dangerous business. Animals can be surprised, defensive, or just plain hungry. By using drones, governments have been able to monitor their movements, health, breeding, feeding, and other aspects of their lives without disrupting them, startling them or endangering gamekeepers.

Drones Promote Safe Tourism

Most people recognize drones for their ability to produce stunning aerial and sweeping video footage. This footage is not just useful for conservationists, but also in promoting ecological and ethical tourism on the continent. Wildlife videos can inspire new generations of people to help Africa’s wildlife, as seen on social video sharing sites such as YouTube and AirVuz.

What New Zealand Can Learn From This

We Kiwis may lack big cats, rhinos and elephants, but ecological conservationism is just as important to us as any other country; perhaps more so. Africa is using drones for a positive future to protect endangered species and monitor animals in remote, hard to access areas. It is also reducing the risks presented to conservationists and promoting correct tourism. New Zealand can learn from this to correctly utilize drones for less accessible areas, to maintain the integrity of easily disturbed animals and birds. However, if utilized, an impact study should be conducted to ensure the drones themselves will not disturb the animals, which some studies in America have shown.