New Zealand is world-renowned for its nature – its lush forests, spectacular mountain landscapes, wild and scenic rivers, beautiful coastlines and extraordinary biodiversity. This natural heritage is the foundation of New Zealand’s identity and its branding, and the premier attraction for the tourism industry.
Nature contributes to the success of the nation’s fishing, farming, forestry and tourism industries, which provide about 52% of national export income. These values and the well-being and prosperity they enable are being diminished and degraded at an alarming rate. Despite the level of public support for conservation and the efforts of legislators, communities and conservation agencies, the rate of decline is greater and the state of nature in New Zealand more threatened now than at any time over the last 65 million years.
The most environmentally harmful land uses would attract high per-hectare tax rates, with lower rates for more benign uses and rebates for areas remaining in native vegetation or legally protected for conservation. In this way, tax rates could be scaled to the level of environmental externality being generated.