The Government has acknowledged our current regulations aren't keeping up with the scale of biodiversity loss across New Zealand – and has launched an ambitious new "greenprint" to turn the picture around by 2050.
Almost 4000 of our known native species – among them kiwi, kākāpō, kōkako, Maui's dolphin and yellow-eyed penguins, or hoiho - are now threatened with extinction.
Remarkably, that includes 90 per cent of seabirds, 76 per cent of freshwater fish and 84 per cent of reptiles, along with 46 per cent of vascular plants.
Statistics show the extinction risk has worsened for 86 species in the past 15 years - compared with the conservation status of just 26 species improving in the past 10 years.
But more alarming is the welfare of those species those we don't even know about: only an estimated 20 per cent of our species have ever been identified and documented.
The Government's new biodiversity strategy, launched this morning, offered a broad overview of how New Zealand would respond to the crisis over the next 30 years.
But it also said the current biodiversity system wasn't working as well as it should be – and was "failing to tackle issues at the scale needed to address the ongoing and cumulative loss of indigenous biodiversity".
Specifically, it had no single, overarching point of governance, leadership or coordination.
And because of the vast number of players involved, policy and planning was being carried out in silos.
"This also means that there is no overarching accountability for any of the players, or at least no single body that actively monitors and polices the system and those in it," the strategy document stated.
It said one of the first challenges was to try to link those structures – but also improve over-arching regulations.
"The regulatory and policy frameworks we have in place for protecting biodiversity in Aotearoa New Zealand have been criticised for being inconsistent, disjointed, under-resourced and poorly enforced, resulting in a failure to achieve many biodiversity outcomes," the document stated.
"There is no clear and universal mandate to protect or manage species or ecosystems across all environments, and there are inconsistencies in how species and habitats are managed under different legislation."
The strategy singled out another glaring issue: that, as Māori weren't recognised in decisions about resource use our environments, biodiversity was more likely to suffer.
But it also pointed to the range of work now under way across sectors as varied as urban planning and biosecurity, to energy, climate change and education.
Some examples included major reforms of the resource management system, strengthening freshwater regulations, building a whole-of-government approach to climate change, conservation initiatives like Predator Free 2050, and responding to iwi-related issues raised by the WAI 262 claim.
The strategy itself sat above all of this work, with three themes - getting the system right, empowering action, and protecting and restoring - and broad objectives and goals for 2025, 2030, and 2050.
Over the next 30 years, it aimed to put biodiversity at "the heart of economic activity" – and ensure natural resources were managed sustainably.
"To date human activities to date have largely impacted heavily on nature, especially indigenous plants and wildlife and their habitats – through burning, forest clearance, over fishing, and our introduction of predators such as rats, stoats, possums and hedgehogs," Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said.
"The new Biodiversity Strategy is a chance to reset our priorities and take action together so that nature thrives for its own sake and as the basis of human wellbeing."
The next steps were to develop an action plan working closely with Treaty partners and local government and landholders as agents for biodiversity work on the ground.
Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said the strategy now needed backing from all political parties.
"It should transcend party politics. After the election, whoever makes up the Government will be in charge of making this strategy work," he said.
"We need legislative reform which clearly demonstrates Te Mana o te Taiao is operating as a whole-of-government document."
Hague said that should involve enacting legislation to prevent mining on conservation land - especially coal mining.
"Mines are currently proposed on nationally important wetlands and unless legislation is changed, the strategy's goal of preventing further decline of freshwater wetlands by 2025 will be meaningless.
"Government also needs to provide better protection for our ocean and immediately place cameras on fishing boats; to enable us to meet the strategy's goals of establishing marine protected areas in priority areas and zero bycatch of seabirds and marine mammals.
"As a country we need to continue freshwater improvements, and reform our primary industry so it can thrive alongside our native plants and animals."