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Will National chop DOC to fund tax cuts?


Will National chop DOC to fund tax cuts?

Forest and Bird is urging National to state whether it will chop DOC’s budget to fund tax cuts, responding to the release of National’s environment and conservation policy today.

“Currently New Zealand spends more money running Parliament than it does on protecting our natural heritage in 30% of New Zealand’s land area, but National’s policy has made no commitments to adequately funding the Department of Conservation,” said Forest and Bird’s Conservation Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“When asked a few days ago, Don Brash refused to rule out cutting DOC’s budget,” he said.

“National needs to reassure New Zealanders that DOC will not face cut-backs to pay for tax cuts. DOC is already such a lean government department that Forest and Bird branches donated traps to DOC to help their Operation Ark programme to protect the endangered mohua (yellow head) in Southland from last year’s stoat plague,” he said.

“Forest and Bird is pleased that National has recognised that New Zealand needs to be genuinely clean and green, but disappointed at the absence of credible policy to accompany such good intentions,” said Forest and Bird’s Conservation Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“While the new fund for ‘community conservation initiatives’ is welcome, it does not address the need for increased funding for DOC to control pests on public conservation land.”

“Will DOC’s budget be chopped to pay for tax cuts under a National-led government?” Mr Hackwell asked.

“National’s policy is also lacking in other areas. Where is the policy to create more marine reserves; to protect public conservation and recreational opportunities by creating new high country parks; and to reduce the impact of commercial fishing on New Zealand’s threatened dolphins, sea lions and albatrosses?”

“When most of our lowland rivers are unfit to drink or swim in it is disappointing that there is no policy to clean up New Zealand’s polluted streams and rivers.”

“National’s environment spokesperson Nick Smith has previously talked about reverting to the long abandoned Forest Service days of ‘multiple use’ of public conservation land. Has National abandoned this unworkable policy after the recent furore over native forest logging, or has the party gone quiet because this policy would clearly be unpopular?”

Notes:

In March 2005 National Party leader Don Brash proposed a review of DOC and in 2004 environment spokesperson Nick Smith announced that National would introduce multiple use principles to increase the amount of destructive land uses on conservation land like farming, mining and logging.

Last summer, Forest and Bird’s South Otago and Southland branches subsidised the Department of Conservation by paying for stoat traps to increase Operation Ark in the Catlins from 2000 to 7000 hectares to protect endangered mohua (yellowhead). The Department of Conservation received a small funding boost in April because the department’s funding was too tight to maintain existing operations.

In the Dominion Post 3 September 2005 Don Brash was asked a series of write-in questions with one on conservation funding:

Q. To pay for your tax cuts will you cut any service carried out by the Conservation Department? (Garry Winthrop, Waikanae)

Don Brash answered: “We have made a commitment to make no reduction in healthcare, education and NZ Super. Indeed, we have said quite clearly that government spending on all three will be going up. But we’ve also said we will be seeking to reduce waste and inefficiency in other parts of the government sector, indeed all parts of the government sector. Any savings we make in these three areas will be going back into healthcare, educations, and so on… I don’t want to rule out the possibility that we might be able to find waste and inefficiency in the Department of Conservation but I don’t have any particular reason to believe there is likely to be more waste there than anywhere else. Let’s put that into perspective: government spending is rapidly approaching $50 billion a year. In round figures, health, education and NZ Super absorb about half of that, meaning that of the balance of government spending, $25 billion, it is suggested we reduce waste and inefficiency in the government sector by about $500 million a year, which amounts to about 2 percent of government spending, exclusive of health, education or NZ Super. We believe that’s possible.”


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