Hopes new Government will boost DoC

  • 22/10/2017

Environmental advocates are breathing a sigh of relief about the future of the Department of Conservation (DoC).

The Environment and Conservation Organisation (ECO) is supporting the Labour-led coalition government, which is likely to put more funding into DoC.

Labour has promised a $25 tax on international visitors to raise $75 million a year. About $30 million of that would go towards conservation, the rest to infrastructure projects, training and high-demand areas around Queenstown. The Greens have promised to "properly fund" DoC.

But ECO spokeswoman Cath Wallace says in addition to extra funding, change is desperately needed within the Government organisation.

"I would hope DoC would move away from the idea its primary focus is tourism and recreation, and go back to its core business of conservation," she told Newshub.

DoC's funding in real terms was $478 million in 2007. It dropped almost $50 million the following year and despite a few increases in recent years, it's still below what it was 10 years ago. Visitors to New Zealand in that same timeframe increased from 2.5 million to 3.5 million.

Then-Tourism Minister Paula Bennett warned in July a tax on tourists could turn them away.

"We have got a really tiny percentage of the international tourist market, I mean less than 1 percent kind of thing, so we need to be looking at how we continue to attract those people," she told Newshub.

Then-Conservation Minister Maggie Barry in May said "DoC's doing fine", dismissing environmentalists' concerns.

Enough focus on the oceans?

ECO is also hoping more focus will be put on marine conservation.

The Greens promised during the election campaign to establish a marine sanctuary in south Taranaki to protect endangered blue whales from mining operations.

Ms Wallace says it doesn't go far enough.

"We need actually to have much better ecosystem-based marine spatial management and protected areas, and that fisheries are managed on an ecosystem basis."

The new Government will be sworn in on Thursday morning.