Delivering conservation on a conservative budget
Do more conservation work with less money.
No, it is not the motto for this year's Conservation Week, which winds up this weekend, but it might as well have been.
It is the dictum the Conservation Department (DOC) has been grappling with after repeated funding cuts.
"Love our Parks" is a much more palatable motto.
DOC Waikato conservator Greg Martin says the department is again being reorganised after a further $9 million was shaved off the department's funding in the latest Budget. The previous reorganisation, which came about after a $54m funding cut in 2009, kicked in from July.
So what does this mean for the future of conservation in Waikato?
Mr Martin says it will look very different.
"The reality is the Government has said there is no new money. There's certainly no new money in the next five years and for the foreseeable future."
The challenge is to maintain and even increase service levels with less money, he said.
The idea is to develop more networks and partnerships with iwi, community groups and businesses, such as Fonterra, to try and find other ways of doing things.
"We're going to build our organisation to get some new skill-sets in.
"We don't have business people in this organisation - it's not been our core business."
And there is plenty at stake if they fail.
Mr Martin gave his annual DOC public update at Hamilton Gardens this week, and shared some successes - stories like the 150-strong flock of kereru seen over the Whenuakite Kiwi Recovery Area on Coromandel, where pest control is done in a partnership between DOC, landowners and Waikato Regional Council.
Or Mangatutu, the northern block of Pureora Forest Park in King Country. It is one of only two places in New Zealand where people can see kokako, kaka, kakariki, and kereru all in the same forest.
Auckland's Howick Tramping Club has been working on pest control for years. Results show they have helped kokako numbers increase from 62 pairs in 2008 to 108 pairs in 2012.
Or Maungatautari. Despite the human wrangles, biodiversity inside the predator-proof fence is "extraordinary".
DOC is 25 years old this year and Mr Martin says the department has a new vision. It used to be to restore the "dawn chorus", but it is now, "New Zealand is the greatest living space on earth".
"We're actually losing biodiversity and we don't want conservation to be seen as a cost to society. Actually, we provide the scenic backdrop for tourism that is a vital part of the economy.
"There's only 1680 staff in the whole department managing a third of New Zealand. There's no way we're going to do this job on our own. Where we are working we're doing really well, but if we're really going to make a difference, everyone's got to own part of it.
"It's a huge challenge to elevate conservation, protection and saving our endangered species to be as important as having something like a hip replacement."
Conservation Week ends with a raft of events this weekend.
Visit conservationweek.org.nz to see what is happening. email@example.com
- © Fairfax NZ News
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