21, Apr, 2008

Conservation Job Losses for Trade Deals, Marine Unit Pulped

Category: ECO Inc

The substantial job losses pending at the Department of Conservation come just days after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gained huge amounts of extra funding, particularly in the area of Trade negotiations and foreign posts, says the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ Inc (ECO).

“The government is showing that it is happy to sacrifice the conservation of New Zealand and ours seas, our native species and our heritage as a trade off for increasing the number of diplomats and for upgrading Foreign Affairs’ real estate, says Cath Wallace of ECO.

“The Department of Conservation is to lose over 50 staff positions, as it tries to save $8million, to balance its already critically stretched budget which blew out because of extra fires, a slight increase in salaries and other costs.

“Contrast this with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) which has an operating budget at present of $278million. It will get $523million extra operating budget spread over the next 5 years, an extra $104million per year, and a further capital injection of $98million, according to a speech last week from Hon Winston Peters, Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the Institute of International Affairs event in Wellington.

It is clear that the government is pursuing trade deals well ahead of conservation which has always been grossly underfunded anyway, says Wallace.

“The Department of Conservation is likely to lose 50-60 positions, with about half in the regions and about half in head office. Marine conservation technical capacity, science and policy seem to be being especially hard hit, even though these are already critically under resourced.

It is a very sad day for conservation. ECO calls for the Cabinet to rethink their priorities and for the irreversible losses of species and ecosystems to be addressed with more, not less funding.