Cost for biodiversity

A government proposal to protect native species could cost Southland district residents $9 million - and that would fund just one stage.

The proposed National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity aims to identify, protect, manage and restore indigenous biodiversity.

Southland District councillors were informed at a meeting on Wednesday ratepayers could fund $40,000 a week which would cover the identification stage.

If funded in one year, it would mean an 18.7% increase in rates, or 6.32% if spread over three years.

Southland covers about 11% of New Zealand’s total land, but has only 15,800 ratepayers.

For that reason, the council submission on the proposal focused on the region being disproportionately impacted.

Council policy, resource management senior resource planner Rebecca Blyth told councillors it was advised one ecologist assessment could cost $3000, in a best-case cost scenario.

This excluded any Department of Conservation (Doc) land, where about 3000 sites would need to be assessed over five years.

Doc land covers about 87% of sites labelled as being a Significant Natural Area.

Ms Blyth’s report said consultation on the national policy had not been "actively promoted by the government."

"Given the policy was prepared initially by key stakeholders, it is expected that those stakeholders have also communicated directly with their community."

Cr Christine Menzies was concerned about the lack of public awareness of the issue.

Ms Blyth said, in her understanding, it was "quite low."

Cr John Douglas said it was a "huge" amount of money for ratepayers.

"To spend $9 million on reports without lifting a spade would be a hard sell".

Its submission also advised the council could not achieve compliance with the milestones and timeframes in the national policy.

The Ministry for the Environment and Doc worked on the proposed policy which was released for public consultation last November.

Submissions close on March 14.

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