Eugenie Sage: DOC lacking a "compelling goal", staff frustrated


Eighty million years of evolution isolated from other land masses means many of New Zealand's native plant and animal species are found nowhere else in the world. All of our frogs and reptiles, more than 90 percent of our insects, more than 80 percent of our higher plants and a quarter of our native bird species are only found here in New Zealand

We have an international responsibility to look after them. That's one reason this week's report reviewing the 2013 restructuring of the Department of Conservation (DOC) is so troubling. The restructuring followed the National Government's $54 million cut to DOC's budget. The restructuring saw 96 jobs axed, a major loss of field staff and their expertise from DOC, and a new structure which divided staff between partnership and services groups.

Twelve months on, an independent report shows the DOC restructuring has been a failure; a disaster for the department, and for conservation. The report, released this week, is damning. Based on a survey of more than 1,000 DOC staff, it found the overwhelming majority believe DOC is now less efficient than before the organisational changes, that staff are frustrated and the department lacks a "compelling goal" and is confused.

New Zealanders treasure our wild places and our distinctive plants and animals. We want DOC funded properly to look after the third of New Zealand's land area and the marine areas that the department is responsible for.

National's severe cuts to conservation, while generously subsidising oil exploration companies by $45 million and irrigators by $120 million, and its weakening of our environmental laws, are just some example of the National's willingness to sacrifice our natural environment.

DOC's post-election briefing to the new Conservation Minister said that Kiwi could become extinct on mainland New Zealand in 50 years. Maui’s Dolphin is on the brink of extinction, but that hasn’t stopped the National Government from inviting oil companies to explore for oil in the sanctuary that is supposed to protect the dolphins.

We need to ensure that DOC has the funding and a sound organisational structure to protect the places New Zealanders care about and awesome species like Kiwi and Maui's dolphin that are only found in our country and nowhere else.

Eugenie Sage is MP and conservation spokesperson for the Green Party

source: data archive