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Budget leaves conservation in the cold


Wellington – Friday 23 May 2008

Budget leaves conservation in the cold

The Budget 2008 has largely left New Zealand’s environment and conservation estate and threatened species out in the cold says the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ (ECO).

Two reviews have sounded the alarm bells about the precarious state of New Zealand’s precious species and ecosystems, ECO Spokesperson, Barry Weeber said.

Mr Weeber said the State of the Environment report showed significant declines with 2,420 species in the “threatened” category, of which 648 are acutely threatened and 236 chronically threatened. “A further 3,262 species are data-deficient and may well be threatened, according to Environment NZ 2007.”

"Despite the urgency and irreversibility of this situation, the Labour led government has forced the Department of Conservation to shed scientific and technical staff, particularly in the marine area and policy and historic heritage staff, as they try to save $8 million."

“Yet the government has increased the funding for the racing industry by $9 million or for the extra $8.5 million for the GCSB covert intelligence gatherers (a 21% increase)."

“A casual look at the Department of Conservation’s expenditure allocation shows that there are cuts through out its operations, but some apparent gains as well. These gains are mostly illusory since they are accounted for by the transfer of previous year’s underspent budget and transfers of depreciation and the capital charge.”

“The Greens have managed to persuade the government to allocate $4 million to private conservation efforts, but this leaves the conservation estate in dire straits, with the marine environment especially at risk.”

“Pressure from fishing and invasive species, poor coastal development decisions and bad land use practices are especially responsible for damage to marine ecosystems – DoC needs marine capacity and terrestrial capacity but these are being cut.” Mr Weeber said loss of policy capacity makes DoC all the weaker just where it really matters.”

“An increase in minerals activity from the Sub-Antarctic, the Chatham Rise, and in the Kermadec Arc is likely to put even more pressure on the marine environment just as DoC’s marine capacity has been gutted.”

“Over-all this Budget reveals a low priority for conservation concerns that would be hard to beat. It is very sad that the Government could not come up with anything better to invest in protecting our natural capital and heritage.”

ENDS

Note:
1. ECO – the Environment and Conservation Organisations was established in 1972 and represents 62 groups with a concern for the environment.

2. The two reviews are the Environment New Zealand 2007 report released in January 2008 and the OECD Environmental Performance Review of New Zealand released in 2007.

3. The information on threatened species comes from page p357 of Environment New Zealand 2007.

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