Outdoor Groups Urge a “New Look’ for DoC

Special Report

Some outdoor recreation-conservation groups are calling for a revision of the Department of Conservation priorities and targets following a recent National Radio interview with the department’s newly appointed director-general Penny Nelson.
The new director general of DoC has taken over from Lou Sanson, after holding senior roles both with the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries.
DoC is responsible for managing one-third of the country’s landmass and some say it’s time for fundamental reform. 
DoC  head Penny Nelson says there needs to be conversation about what people want conservation to look like.
But some outdoor groups want a new look”.
Laurie Collins of the Sporting Hunters Outdoor Trust welcomed the opportunity.
“That conversation is much needed,” he says. “In my opinion a change is needed. “Bureaucrats often with ideological bents have had too much influence.”
Tony Orman, spokesman for the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations said the organisation in its successive election charters had called for a revision of DoC’s priorities.
“The charter urges re-ordering DoC’s priorities to making its three main priorities conservation, the environment and recreation, instead of its diversion into commercial undertakings,” he says. “Also the name be changed to Department of Conservation and Outdoor Recreation to emphasise its basic function to the public.”
Ecological Reality
Tony Orman says DoC’s culture needs to change to embrace ecological reality.
“DoC must protect and maintain the public’s conservation estate to embrace the evolved 21st century ecosystem and not try to recreate and preserve a hypothetical 500 AD world.”
Dr. Peter Trolove president of the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers, an advocacy for trout and salmon and rivers, said it had been disappointing in the light of the deterioration in rivers, to see little or no support from the department for Water Conservation Orders (WCO) designed to give waterways national park type protection.
“WCOs are being undermined due to commercial exploitation for irrigation and power generation. Rivers are a finite resource and habitat not only for trout and salmon but native fish, which should particularly concern DoC.”
Laurie Collins of the Sporting Hunters Outdoor Trust said new DOC director-general Penny Nelson told of audible bird song when living on Kapiti Island. He was critical of the department’s blanketing of public lands with the eco-toxin 1080.
Having worked with the first trials of 1080 and subsequently in department work during his working career, he said 1080 devastated insects and most birds but not all avian species.
“Nectar feeders such as tuis and bell birds – noisy singers –  are the least affected. On the other hand, insectivorous bird species, such as bush robins, tomtits, warblers, rifleman and others and predator or scavengers such as falcons, keas and wekas are devastated by the poison. Hearing just tuis and bellbirds sounds good but can give the wrong impression.
Secondary Poisoning
Each carcass or invertebrate such as worms killed by 1080 remained toxic. The decline in kiwi feeding on worms after 1080 could well be significant. 
Laurie Collins said he was concerned to hear Penny Nelson talk of genetic technology to eradicate “destructive invasive species like possums”. Having worked on possums on departmental work and as a possum trapper, he said the “invasive pest” tag was wrong.
“Possums are demonised. They are a herbivore, not a predator and browsing of foliage has been a function of the ecosystem for millions of years.”
Besides possum populations are  low.
“It’s so obvious by noting the very few road kills now,” he says. “Nor are they invasive as stated, since possums are slow breeders with one joey a year.”
Laurie Collins said it became a vicious cycle as scare-mongering over possums led to aerial 1080 drops that indiscriminately killed insects and birds.
Possums are a resource with the fur fetching over 20 many times the value of crossbred sheep wool.
Laurie Collins says DoC has become trapped in a time warp, with an anti-introduced phobia and an obsession with eco-poisons such as 1080 and brodifacoum.
The new DoC director general has some formidable challenges to get DoC back on a reality course.
“By talking and very importantly listening and hearing to practical people who understand the bush and the natural world, the new captain might steer DoC back on to a sensible course,” he says.

© Dr Peter Trolove – DoC failing to support Water Conservation Orders (WCOs)

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4 Responses to Outdoor Groups Urge a “New Look’ for DoC

  1. Sandy Dune says:

    Department of Conservation is not held in high regard. Trouble was when they formed the department in 1987, the good practical, experienced people were tossed out to be be replaced by academics with ideological leanings. Forest and Bird influence has adversely affected decision making.

  2. Dr. Charlie Baycroft says:

    The Department of Conservation was created on 1 April 1987 when the Conservation Act was passed in parliament.

    The activities of the people in the Department of Conservation are meant to be in accordance with what is stated in that Act.

    The employees of this government department have the very onerous responsibility to manage around 30% of the land in New Zealand for the benefit of the citizens who actually own this property and pay for it to be managed on their behalf.

    Thirty-Five Years on, it seems timely and desirable to assess the performance and success of the public servants employed in this department with reference to the Conservation Act of 1987.

    Many things have changed since 1987. The social and political environment, theories and beliefs have changed.|
    It might also be appropriate to consider whether or not that Act is still meeting the needs of the NZ public and the ways in which they collectively wish their communally owned property to be used and managed for their benefit.

    Different groups of people access and use these public resources in different ways but they should all be aware that that this usage does not confer ownership.

    This should also be clearly recognized by the management and staff of the Department of Conservation.
    They do not own what they incorrectly refer to as “DOC LAND”.

    There are also many urban dwelling citizens who infrequently or perhaps never utilize these public resources.
    These people are also joint owners of the property and ought to benefit from it’s management as well.
    They have no special interest group or organization to advocate for them so perhaps efforts ought to be made to ask them what they think?

    The basic meaning of Conservation is the prevention of waste of energy or resources, so perhaps we should be looking at the financial burden we all share in relation to the activities of the Department of Conservation and what benefits the people are receiving in return for what they are compelled to pay?

    Conservation can also be related to protecting and preserving what has been passed on to us by previous generations for our future generations and that might include the “introduced” flora and fauna as well as what is considered to be “indigenous”.

    30% of our country and the valuable natural resources it contains are a major asset of the people that should be greatly appreciated and very efficiently managed for the collective benefit of current and future citizens of New Zealand.

  3. A. Bird says:

    The biggest threat to the conservation of endangered species is the continued use of 1080 poison it would be hoped that serious consideration should be given to stopping its use. Fishermen and hunters spend a lot of time off the beaten tracks looking into areas not often visited and have a great deal to offer in the way of observations, have and still do put a lot of time into trapping as has been shown by hunting groups maintaining trapping lines for predators in blue duck habitat. If the DoC didn’t brass off many hunters and fishers they would be more inclined to assist. A few years ago a hunter friend of mine ( a woman hunter) was having a discussion with a DoC bloke about hunting and she was saying about about the number of deer hunters were seeing dead after 1080 operations he told her that all hunters were liars and not to believe them, she thanked him for calling her a liar to her face and not behind her back, it’s attitudes like that that put the very people off that could be of a great assistance in the management of NZs public estate. NZ will never be the way it was, the first human arrivals made sure of that through the burning of bush and hunting into extinction of some species.

  4. Steve Vee says:

    The only way forward for a the Public Land manager of 1/3 of New Zealand, who are currently mis-named the Department of Conservation, is to manage the environment in a sustainable healthy way, ideally organically without the use of destructive poisons. They need to be publicly aware they are the managers and not default that responsbility to other groups like Forest and Bird or to any other sections of the community. Full influence and control must be maintained at the Government for all 5 million citizens of New Zealand and for all future New Zealand citizens yet to exist. It must remain a fully healthy environment to be existing in 300 years time.

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