27, Jun, 2011

Job losses at the Department of Conservation will undermine conservation

Category: ECO Inc

The loss of over 100 jobs at the Department of Conservation is a body blow and will severely impact their capacity, the Environment and Conservation Organisations (ECO) said today.

ECO co-chair Cath Wallace said the Department of Conservation has admitted that among the staff positions to be axed include science, legal and technical support. “This follows budget cuts of $54 million over 4 years and future budget cuts in natural heritage management of $9.3 million per year.”

“When has science not been frontline to the Department of Conservation?  The Department of Conservation has prided itself on using science to protect threatened species and habitats.”

Cath Wallace said the budget cuts and the loss of biodiversity expertise to the department will harm its work in protecting threatened and habitats and retrenchments are dound to attract international attention.

Only 250 of more than 2700 threatened species are currently under active management by the Department of Conservation.

Cath Wallace said the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s (PCE) report on 1080 noted that less than one-eighth of conservation land is controlled for possums, rats and stoats.  “The current budget cuts the area under active possum control by 35,000 hectares.”

As the Commissioner noted, the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Adviser Sir Peter Gluckman frequently calls for policy decisions to be based on evidence.  “These cuts will hinder the Department’s work to protect out native species and ecosystems.”

The Government has failed to recognise that funding the Department of Conservation is an investment in protecting natural capital: it is an essential part of Government activity.

Cath Wallace said conservation land provides the clean water that economic activity relies on.  “Our unique species whether they are kiwi, kaka, kowhai or Kauri are what makes New Zealand special and an essential part of our sense of place.”

The Government has its priorities all wrong.  It is funding infrastructure projects which have a negative benefit cost ratio, such as the Puhoi to Wellsford highway, rather than investing in conservation for the future.

ECO calls on all political parties to promote the adequate funding of the Department of Conservation at the upcoming election.

For further information, contact Cath Wallace or Barry Weeber via the ECO office at eco@eco.org.nz or (04) 385 7545



1.         ECO – the Environment and Conservation Organisations was established in 1972 and represents 55 groups with a concern for the environment.

2.         The Department of Conversation manages nearly a third of the land area of New Zealand including 14 National Parks, and 7 percent of the territorial sea which is in marine reserves.

3.         The Departrment of Conservation spokesperson Rory Newsome acknowledged in the ODT that the cuts to the Department includes ‘areas such as payroll, mapping, science, technical support, concessions and legal services’ (http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/166415/cuts-will-affect-docs-dunedin-office).

4.         As the OECD has noted “In a global context, New Zealand has a special responsibility for biodiversity conservation, since a high percentage of its 90,000 native species are endemic and unique.”  OECD 2007. Environmental Performance Review – New Zealand. OECD, Paris.

5.         As the PCE has noted: “Around 90 percent of our birds and insects are found nowhere else in the world, along with 80 percent of our plants and all of our 60 reptiles, 4 frogs and 3 bats. ...And in a recent study of 179 countries, New Zealand was ranked as having the highest proportion of threatened species.” (See Bradshaw, C.J.A., Giam, X. and Sodhi, N.S. 2010. Evaluating the relative environmental impact of countries. PLoS ONE 5(5): e10440. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010440 http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0010440 ).

6.         DOC has identified over 2,700 native species that are at risk of extinction, but actively manages only about 10 percent of these.

7.         The cuts to the Department of Conservation announced in the 2009 budget was for $54 million over 4 years.  In contrast the government has increased funding for Crown Minerals of $5 million per year and about $20 million allocated over 3 years for seismic surveying.

8.         The 2011 budget for the Department of Conservation included annual cuts of $9.316 million in the Management of Natural Heritage (the  appropriation for maintaining, restoring and protecting ecosystems, habitats and Species).  This includes a reduction of the area under sustained possum control of 35,000 hectares.  Overall the Department has had an annual baseline reduction of $13.5 million.  This doesn’t include the requirement from 1 July 201 that Departments directly fund from the current budget the cost of KiwiSaver, and some State sector retirement schemes for their employees.