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Department of Conservation: A species in decline

28 May 2008

Department of Conservation: A species in decline

The Green Party is bitterly disappointed in the Government's Department of Conservation staff cuts announced today.

"With the Government unwilling to provide sufficient extra funds in last week's Budget, DOC's ability to do its job is brought into sharp relief with the loss of 60 positions and the disestablishment of the specialist marine unit," Green Party Conservation Spokesperson Metiria Turei says.

"It seems conservation has now joined climate change and water quality in the too-hard basket - so much for the Prime Minister's vision of 'sustainability'.

"The report admits that 'the more we learn, the more we realise the [conservation] task exceeds our knowledge and resources' - so why on earth are we cutting DOC spending, particular in the marine conservation area?

"While some changes such as new positions and relocations may be beneficial, there is no hiding from the fact that this staff review was only required because of the need to shave $5 million dollars per year off DOC's projected spend.

"Budget planning timeframes mean DOC managers would have known about the additional $3 million (of the $8 million shortfall) before starting the review, so to claim that it 'took the pressure off the cost savings exercise' is to stretch the truth.

"Contrary to the Government's claim that the 'marine conservation unit has successfully completed most of the work' is good reason for axing it, New Zealand faces more and more critical marine issues - threats to whales are increasing, plans for Hector's and Maui's dolphins are incomplete, there are no marine reserves in the Exclusive Economic Zone, and Marine Protected Areas are only just beginning. We need more work in the marine policy area, as well as a correction to the power the Ministry of Fisheries has over the Department of Conservation.

"Under this Government, DOC has obviously been instructed to spin 'good news' stories rather than tell the truth about New Zealand's conservation challenges. They've even made a good news story out of today's staff cuts. The public can rest assured that the Green Party will continue to advocate for increased funding for DOC to do its important work in conserving our natural and historic heritage. DOC needs to be a fierce advocate for protecting and enhancing our natural and historic heritage."

ENDS

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