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DOC refutes funding cut claims

DOC refutes funding cut claims

The Department of Conservation today refuted Forest and Bird’s claim that DOC had cut funding to 55 conservation projects.

“We are reprioritising provisional funding, based on new money from year five of the Biodiversity Strategy, for planned programmes that have not yet begun, so that we can combat rat and stoat plagues recently predicted to occur in parts of the South Island this coming summer,” DOC acting-southern regional general manager Mike Slater said today.

Mr Slater was responding to Forest and Bird’s claim that DOC would have to drop $910,000 worth of conservation projects to fund the first phase of Operation Ark, an emergency response plan to predator plagues in South Island beech forests.

Conservation Minister Chris Carter said that DOC was routinely having to reprioritise expenditure because of the dynamic nature of conservation work. “Nature does not stay the same, and urgent threats need urgent action.”

“Last year Forest and Bird urged the department to do everything it possibly could at Okarito in years when the forests produce lots of fruit and create the risk of predator population explosions, as a result of kiwi chicks dying from a stoat plague the previous year.”

“The department took the criticism on board, and as Minister of Conservation, I responded directly to it, and instructed the department to put contingencies in place to deal with these predator plagues in critical areas where species are under threat,” Mr Carter said. “This has become Operation Ark.”

In the first phase of Operation Ark, from this year, orange-fronted kakariki (parakeet), a nationally-critical species with only 100 to 200 individuals remaining, will be protected in North Canterbury forests from a predicted predator plague. Whio (blue duck), a threatened species in decline in the South Island, living in the Clinton, Arthur and Cleddau valleys near the Milford Track will receive extra protection from stoats, from this year.

Mr Slater said it was still the department’s intention to implement the delayed projects as soon as it was able.

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