Conservation is a subjective thing, it is different for different cultures. In the United States, in England and Italy the lived in working rural landscape is highly valued by rural and city people alike, and is protected by a variety of methods.
Government involvement does not necessarily lead to better outcomes in the provision of conservation. It certainly does not lead to the most efficient outcomes. Generally where farmers were paid for conservation outcomes the goals of those programs were unclear. There is little for New Zealand to take from those programs. The English Higher Level Stewardship Scheme is one of the few government schemes that has some elements that could be used in New Zealand.
There are many examples of where the non government sector takes an active involvement in conservation. The outcomes from this involvement appeared to be more effective and more efficient then those from government involvement. The United States situation where large NGO’s such as the Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited are very active, demonstrates what can be achieved when the right policy environment is in place. Creating the right policy environment for conservation groups and land owners to work together can bring real innovation to the provision of conservation outcomes. That innovation includes a full spectrum from short term contracts for a conservation service. to permanent easements and land purchase.
The ability of the larger conservation groups, both in the US and UK, to work with a variety of partners from federal government through to private individuals appeared to be a key competence for the success of their programs
Incentives matter. If the incentives for private and public landowners are wrong then the desired outcomes will not be achieved. I found documented evidence of where landowners had responded in the opposite way to that intended by well meaning legislation.
Niche markets will require specific environmental quality standards which will progressively require verification of integrity of claims. Over time this may move to where minimum environmental standards are a prerequisite for access to many of New Zealand’s markets for agricultural produce. There is potential for much confusion in the market over environmental claims and it would be beneficial if common environmental standards could be developed.
In other countries the relationships between conservation groups and landowners is different than the current New Zealand situation. There is a recognition that dealing with landowners can lead to more enduring outcomes than a command and control approach. There is also recognition from landowners that it is ok to deal with conservation groups.
Internationally housing development is seen as one of the biggest threats to landscapes – a much bigger threat than farming activities.