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National Forces DOC to put out begging bowl

7 March 2013

National Forces DOC to put out begging bowl

Through budget cuts the National Government is forcing the Department of Conservation (DOC) to rely on handouts from companies like Fonterra, the co-operative behind one of New Zealand’s most polluting industries, Green Party conservation spokesperson Eugenie Sage said today.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith and Fonterra announced today that Fonterra would provide $20 million over 10 years for DOC to undertake work in five catchments.

“This funding will go towards community engagement but not address the cuts made to DOC’s core advocacy role,” said Ms Sage.

“DOC is being put in a situation where it is reliant on funding from a company that it has to hold to account. DOC’s role is to advocate strongly for clean water and controls on nutrient leaching under the RMA, as it did against Dairy NZ and Federated Farmers supported by Fonterra for the Horizons Regional Council One Plan.

“DOC has had to put out a begging bowl for corporate sponsorship because of National's $54 million cuts to its budget.

“DOC should be protecting our environment by submitting on significant RMA applications but that’s happening far less often. DOC has revealed that in the last financial year, submissions on resource consent applications dropped from 98 in 2010/11 to 48 in 2011/12.

“DOC has a responsibility under the Conservation Act to advocate for nature to protect the rivers, lakes and streams that Kiwi’s love and native fish and invertebrates that live in them. This agreement puts that at risk.

“The continued restructuring and downsizing of DOC with loss of technical and field staff and closure of area offices also risks staff being diverted from other tasks to work on the five Fonterra projects.

“National Government funding cuts mean DOC has to beg for money while environmental NGOs and community organisations attempt to do key parts of DOC’s work.

“The Conservation Department should be funded adequately so it can pursue its own priorities and not be steered into projects that corporates want.

“If Fonterra really wanted to do something for the environment it could work to restrain the growth of intensive dairying and stop dairy expansion in sensitive catchments like the Mackenzie Basin and Southland’s Waituna Lagoon.”

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