Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says DOC is fully able to do its job of protecting precious native species while also managing the increasing number of tourists coming to New Zealand.
In the past week, Minister Barry has announced $76m for DOC to manage the growing number of visitors on public conservation land, $21.3m for Battle For Our Birds, $2.8m for a sea lion threat management plan and has released the first ever Threatened Species Strategy.
“DOC is spending more than ever before on natural heritage and recreation work. Predator Free 2050 is gathering momentum and the War on Weeds is continuing at pace. There’s more conservation work being done in New Zealand now than at any time in our history,” Ms Barry says.
“The department’s operational expenditure has increased by 18% from $316m in 2008/09 to a forecast $370m in 2016/17 and those figures don’t include partnership funding which over the past six years is equivalent to $100m.”
“Any funding spent upgrading tracks and developing more opportunities for visitors adds more money to DOC’s fighting fund for species protection and is re-invested back in to biodiversity. $16m of the $76m announced last week is also an increase to ongoing baseline funding.”
“The draft Threatened Species Strategy gives us a prioritised proposal to focus attention on our most vulnerable species and the number of threatened species managed in more than one place has risen from 159 in 2014 to 407 in 2016.”
“We are also making great progress on many of our most threatened endemic bird species and the most recent bird threat classification has four of our most threatened species - takahē, rowi/Okarito brown kiwi, Campbell Island snipe and Campbell Island teal – moved out of the Nationally Critical category. It’s the first time a kiwi species has been moved out of the highest threat class.”
“Our continuing work to rid New Zealand of possums, stoats and rats through Predator Free 2050 is having a significant impact with successful breeding seasons this year for South Island kākā, rock wren, great spotted kiwi and kea.”
“Our sea lion population has also increased and for the first time in 200 years a colony is on the verge of establishing on the mainland. DOC and MPI had contributed to the $2.8m for the Sea Lion Threat Management plan.”
“DOC and MPI have also worked together on the control programme for wilding pines – Public Enemy No.1 in the War on Weeds. The programme has now covered almost a million hectares using $16m made available by the government last year for this work.”
“We have also completed the first stage of a 3 year programme to upgrade tracks in kauri forest to help prevent the spread of kauri dieback including a new footwear cleaning station on the track to Tane Mahuta.”
“The number of frontline “boots on the ground” rangers employed by DOC has remained static over the past 5 years and remain the backbone of a committed and dedicated DOC workforce. However DOC cannot do all the conservation work on its own and that’s where the army of 250,000 volunteers help immeasurably,” Ms Barry says
“The misinformation campaign being peddled by the Greens about DOC funding cuts has been refuted many times. Last year the Greens applied inflation to our budget ignoring the fact that in 2008 DOC had a one-off appropriation of around $45m to buy St James Station. Adding inflation is a nonsense and doesn’t show the true picture.”
“DOC is fully able to do its job. It has many other success stories and the department remains committed to protecting native species and all its other important work,” Ms Barry says.