Forest and Bird CEO slams Government's walkback on wetland protections

Forest and Bird's CEO has called the Government out over its walk back on protections for wetlands.

The recent flooding events have brought into the spotlight how vital our wetlands are as sinkholes for water, but in New Zealand, we have already drained or lost 90 percent of them.

The Government has slightly walked back on its landmark freshwater package in 2020 which provided stricter protections for wetlands meaning they can only be drained if critical infrastructure was being built.

Forest and Bird CEO Nicola Toki told Simon Shepherd on Newshub Nation the wetlands protect us from flooding, alleviate the impact of drought and sequester carbon.

"We have the Government on the one side saying we're all about climate change and we're all about making sure that we are reducing carbon and we've got something sitting there that naturally does it for free," Toki said.

Industries said the restrictions put on wetlands back in 2020 basically cut off industries from doing things such as getting aggregate for quarries and restricting any possibility for urban development.

Environment Minister David Parker told Newshub Nation the regulation changes were at the margins and were made because there were unanticipated impacts, like preventing quarries from producing aggregate for concrete. The new rules require there to be no net loss for wetlands. 

The Government is also arguing the changes were needed because the threshold is so high restorative work on wetlands couldn't even go ahead.

"I don't buy that at all, that is a nonsense sort of a point because if you've got a fraction of a fraction of an existing habitat remaining, why would you be talking out both sides of your face so that you're allowing for the destruction on one hand and saying 'oh no, but it doesn't allow restoration over here'," Toki said

"Just don't destroy them in the first place and reap the benefits."

Watch the full video for more. 

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