Landowners do a lot of work to protect biodiversity onfarm and government agencies should be working with them, rather than against them.
Federated Farmers was responding to DOC and LINZ’s Draft Long-Term Insights Briefing which is about protecting biodiversity through the use of information and emerging technologies.
The briefing stated that new and improved data could help improve monitoring of biodiversity across landscapes through satellite and aerial imaging, identify changes in the presence and prevalence of species through satellite/aerial imaging and environmental DNA sampling.
There was also discussion about the use of gene editing to control pests such as possums and wilding conifers.
In a submission, Feds raised concerns about the protection, management and use of data collected. ‘There is a genuine concern by private landowners, based on past experience, that information collected on indigenous flora and habitats of indigenous fauna collected by public agencies will be used to place restriction on the reasonable use of their land.’
Feds says that working with landowners, landowner representatives and providing greater funding for organisations that work with landowners such as the QEII National Trust (whose funding has not increased since 2015) provides significant biodiversity opportunities.
The submission stated that it is important to recognise that helping biodiversity thrive will be achieved through three main avenues which involve active management by landowners and managers and enhancing and utilising (not stifling) the voluntary efforts of individuals, firms and community groups through:
• Protecting what is there;
• Enhancing degraded areas of biodiversity (pest control is key); and
• Creating new biodiversity such as planting out riparian margins and encouraging the active management of regenerating native vegetation.
Feds pointed out that a significant number of the threats to biodiversity on public land administered by DOC and LINZ are also threats to farmers and growers’ ability to profitable produce food and fibre from their land – for example wilding conifers, possums, and wallabies.
Gene editing as pest control
Feds pointed out that there has been “systemic underfunding” of pest control on crown land. As a way to counter this, Feds outlined its support for gene editing as a way to control biodiversity pests onfarm. This could include the planting of sterile conifers to prevent their spread and gene drive for wallaby and possum control.
‘Gene editing technologies should be considered on their individual merits and may well be the best outcome to a specific challenge such as controlling the unwanted spread of conifers and have other benefits. For example, infertile conifers have the potential to increase woody biomass growth rates.’
Feds says the full range of barriers to the availability and uptake of genetic technologies such as gene editing needs to be thoroughly explored and discussed.
‘In short, there is a need for a robust and informed debate about the opportunities presented by the wider use of genetic technologies and a recognition that societal resistance and concern about their use has greatly reduced globally. There is strong evidence that there is less hesitancy about new biotechnologies in Aotearoa New Zealand than in the past,’ read the submission.
Submissions closed on January 16, 2023.