ACT leader David Seymour announced an alternative to the government's Significant Natural Areas "debacle" at Fieldays last week.
The party would dispense with the requirement for councils to identify Significant Natural Areas through the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity, and would provide a $10 million fund for local biodiversity initiatives, such as the work undertaken by the Queen Elizabeth II Trust.
"Private property rights are under threat thanks to the government's directive to councils to identify and manage SNAs," Seymour said.
"Farmers, iwi and all property owners are worried that their land will be taken from them if the council rezones it.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
"Protecting biodiversity is a goal shared by all New Zealanders, but SNAs undermine private property rights and the conservation efforts of the people who care most about the environment.
"Associate Environment Minister James Shaw has hit pause and un-pause on his directive to councils several times. We're saying it's time to hit stop and reset."
The feeling amongst farmers at Fieldays had been strong, he said. ACT believed that the best guardians of land were the people who owned it, and that biodiversity and property rights went hand in hand.
"We should live in a world where land owners are rewarded for doing the right thing, not punished. Central and local government should work with, not against, communities to advance conservation across the country in an inclusive and democratic way.
"ACT would introduce a $10 million Biodiversity Fund that would provide funding for efforts to manage biodiversity on private land. Initiatives such as pre-existing work done by the Queen Elizabeth II Trust, where covenants are negotiated with land owners, would be supported.
"The fund would represent a significant increase in conservation funding, and would mark an important step towards a New Zealand in which the natural environment and the principles of a free society are not mutually exclusive."