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Conservation Minister Kiri Allan announced the changes today.
They included a review of the Wildlife Act, increasing protection of Hauraki Gulf, simplifying the permit and concessions processes, and addressing issues with outdated national park rules.
"More than 4000 native species are threatened or at risk of extinction. We are at a defining moment for nature, yet much of our legislation is decades-old and not fit for purpose," she said.
"It is a complex web of nine main pieces of legislation and 15 Acts, developed largely on an ad-hoc basis over a span of nearly 70 years."
She hoped a review of the Wildlife Act - which was more than 60 years old - would mean it could finally do its job of protecting all endangered species.
As an example, she said there were pekapeka - native bats - that needed to be relocated that were in the route of a new motorway.
"Well DoC as the regulatory entity didn't have the powers to be able to enable relocation through diligent measures.
"It could only deal with that particular taonga once it was dead. So we don't have the right regulatory tools that are fit for purpose for what it is that in a contemporary conservation environment."
Better laws would equip Aotearoa with the tools to deal with threats to biodiversity including climate change and introduced pests, she said.
"The Act needs better mechanisms to protect species while at the same time addressing opportunities and challenges for customary rights and recognising mātauranga Māori, rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga."
DoC was looking at the full suite of conservation law and how it currently functioned and had plans for a more phased approach and substantial reforms further down the track.
She acknowledged the current system for updating national park rules was not working.
"In the meantime, we can start making improvements now to help relieve the pressure on DoC's concessions and management planning systems.
"Tensions are constantly felt around key plans like the Fiordland National Park Management Plan. Part of that tension is because guidance or limits on specific activities like aircraft landings cannot be easily reviewed and updated."
Part of what she wanted to see was conservation planning and permitting decisions that would better reflect what local communities want and the latest environmental science, Allan said.
"The current system isn't fully facilitating the activities we want to enjoy, like mountain biking, or the scientific research we need to address the biodiversity crisis.
"Alleviating some of those pressures and frustrations by simplifying the processes for concessions and other permits for researchers, tourism operators and other businesses is a much-needed fix."
Consultation on some of the proposed changes - including Conservation Management and Processes Amendment Bill - would start next year.
Work to improve processes for stewardship land review and reclassification, increase marine protection for the Hauraki Gulf and progress wider marine protection reform, and improve the Trade in Endangered Species Act 1989 were already underway.
While some of the changes were expected to get a green light this election cycle, Allan said they were also laying the foundations for larger, more sweeping reforms in the future.
"Today's announcement is a vital step towards addressing ambiguity and deficiencies in current legislation, much of which is older than I am and doesn't reflect the massive shift in how we think, and care, about the environment we all share," she said.
Updates including opportunities to engage on the reforms would be added to the Department of Conservation's (www.doc.govt.nz/conservation-law-reform) regularly.