Half favour bigger conservation spend
HAWKE'S BAY REPORTER
As Government funding cuts start taking effect on the Conservation Department, a survey shows half of us would like to see more tax money spent on conservation.
The department has said it will be assessing the operational roles of 1200 staff from next year as part of an ongoing look at its operations. A restructure has already seen the loss of 96 jobs.
DOC spokesman Rory Newsam said analysis of the staffing, systems and infrastructure at its area and field offices was still at a planning stage. Staff would be told of any recommendations early next year. He would not rule out a reorganisation of offices and workers.
Meanwhile, a summary of the department's annual public survey has been distributed to staff this week, and The Dominion Post obtained a copy yesterday.
The survey, which involved phone interviews with 3885 people, is included in the department's annual report, which will be tabled in Parliament this month.
It finds that 64 per cent of people thought funding DOC was a good use of taxpayer money, and 49 per cent said they would like to see more of their taxes spent on conservation.
Eighty-five per cent found the department relevant and inspiring, compared with 70 per cent last year. Seventy-nine per cent thought it was hard-working, compared with 59 per cent last year, and 66 per cent felt it was trustworthy, compared with 42 per cent last year.
Seventy-one per cent of people had a favourable view of the department, with rural people and those living on the West Coast continuing to hold the least favourable views.
Green Party conservation spokeswoman Eugenie Sage said the survey showed the Government cuts were against people's will.
''When 77 per cent of New Zealanders agree that spending money on conservation is a good investment in the prosperity and wellbeing of New Zealanders, cutting funding for staff at DoC's frontline is very short-sighted,'' she said.
DOC's budget for this financial year was $335m, $25m less than 2008. In 2009 DOC was told its budget would be annually capped at $13.5m less for the next four years.
Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson said Vote Conservation was now $445m, nearly twice the $226m it was in 2001-02 and "efficiencies have been identified".
85 per cent of respondents said conservation was important to them.
60 per cent believed conservation was as important as education, health and law and order.
77 per cent said spending money on conservation was a good investment in the prosperity and wellbeing of New Zealanders.
69 per cent said conservation was central to their identity and agreed that "conservation is at the heart of what it means to be a New Zealander".
- © Fairfax NZ News
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