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Conservation board proposal weakens independence/planning

Conservation board proposal weakens independence and planning

Tampering with conservation boards weakens their independence and Department of Conservation’s (DOC) conservation planning, the Green Party said today.

The report released yesterday from the Conservation Board Review Panel chaired by National MP Nicky Wagner includes recommendations that conservation boards report on expectations set annually by the Minister. It also recommends scrapping the existing model of regional conservation planning.

“New Zealanders treasure our wild places and want them protected. The report’s recommendations would undermine this protection,” Green Party conservation spokesperson Eugenie Sage said today.

“The recommendations weaken the important roles conservation boards play in providing a community voice on how public conservation lands are managed and being a check and balance on the DOC and the Minister.

“The panel’s recommendation to require boards to report on expectations of the Minister would weaken conservation boards’ independence. It would make them creatures of the Minister,” said Ms Sage.

Conservation management strategies (CMS), which boards help develop, provide guidance on how commercial and other activities on conservation land should be dealt with. They are currently prepared for each of DOC’s 14 regions.

“The report proposes scrapping CMSs as the department’s major planning tool,” said Ms Sage.

“This is a watering down of conservation management planning which could lead to weaker controls on high impact commercial tourism and mining activities on conservation land.

“Scrapping regionally focused Conservation Management Strategies and having just three high level strategies (for the North and South Islands and outlying islands) will make DOC and the boards less connected with the wild places, landscapes and species which the department is responsible for managing.

“It wastes the huge investment of time and energy which boards and the community have spent developing conservancy based conservation management strategies. Existing CMSs have a lot of location specific information on conservation values which will be lost by changing to high level strategies.”

ends

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