Jesse Mulligan: We should be embarrassed about how DoC is treated
OPINION: Saturday was the 30th birthday of the Department of Conservation (DoC).
I was surprised as I thought it had been around forever, but it turns out it's only a couple of years older than Zac the new Bachelor.
DoC started in 1987 as a big, inspiring idea but I want to talk about the fact that DoC in 2017 is horribly underfunded. We should be proud of what DOC does, but we should be embarrassed about how it's been treated.
New Zealand has 1000 species currently threatened with extinction. One thousand! Another 3000 are "at risk". Eighty percent of birds are on the verge of disappearing forever, but the birds are the least of our worries because at least they're cute. Most of the insects, lizards and plants are all screwed as well, and they've got it worse because no bank is going to put its hand up to sponsor a freaking knobbled weevil.
Whose job is it to save these critters? Well, it's DoC's, but they've got no money to do it.
They have to spend what little they do get on running our national parks, and almost a third of New Zealand is national parks! DoC is responsible for looking after the tracks and the huts and the carparks - all very well if it's just Kiwis using them but they're also getting smashed to bits by foreign tourists. Last year alone the Government made $2.8 billion from GST from tourism spending and none of it was given back to DoC to help them make ends meet.
DoC doesn't have a big lobby group to argue its case. When big dairy puts its hand out they get $400m to spend on irrigation. That's DoC's whole budget - and it's being spent on growing dairy which, if anything, makes the conservation job even harder.
Tourism is now a bigger business for New Zealand than dairy is. It's our economy's shining light and it all depends on the 100 percent pure thing that DoC is in charge of. Our national parks are a huge drawcard - spoiler alert: nobody's flying in from overseas to visit Rainbow's End.
But all this national park work leaves DoC just a few million dollars to try and protect our 4000 species who are vulnerable. It doesn't add up, and because there's no money, only a handful of the best looking birds even have a recovery plan. To the rest it's just: good luck.
That's how DoC is treated by our government these days: Good luck, she'll be right, and if you run out of manpower ask some of your hippy volunteers to do it.
Happy 30th Birthday DoC and look at the bright side: In 30 years from now you probably won't have any wildlife left to worry about.
The upside is this is an election year, while our native animals are being eaten, starved and choked out of existence you at least get to cast a vote on their behalf.
Jesse Mulligan is a host on Three's The Project, weeknights at 7:00pm.