Forest & Bird calls for agency overhaul on eve of threatened species summit

On the eve of a government Threatened Species Summit, Forest & Bird is calling for an overhaul of key government economic development agencies and for a doubling of the Department of Conservation’s budget to 1% of the Government’s overall spend, in order to reverse the crisis affecting nature.

Forest & Bird is anticipating that tomorrow Conservation Minister Maggie Barry will announce a ‘whole of government‘ approach to threatened species conservation.

“We would welcome a genuine whole of government approach, where all government agencies prioritise the conservation of our unique native species. But that will require an overhaul of the key government agencies whose policies and actions are currently driving many of these species to extinction,” says Forest & Bird’s Chief Executive Kevin Hague.

“Right now the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), and Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), are second only to introduced pests as threats to nature. They are enabling environmental destruction, they’re captured by industry agendas and they continually fail to protect nature under their care.”

“At the same time, DOC has been woefully underfunded to the point that it can’t carry out the core conservation work required to prevent extinction of our native species. The Department needs a major boost of funds to protect the nearly 3000 threatened and at risk species in its care.”

“MBIE’s obsessive whole of government growth agenda is pushing New Zealand’s environment beyond its limits, as the OECD warned earlier this year.”

“People think of LINZ as the place that makes your maps, but it also controls over 1.5 million hectares of the country’s mountains, high country, lakes and rivers – making them New Zealand’s second largest land manager after DOC. But LINZ is doing virtually nothing to protect at-risk nature in those areas. A recent report by the Environmental Defence Society exposed how LINZ has become captured by vested interests.”

“MPI has become horribly conflicted between its regulatory and industry promotion roles. No government agency should be expected to be both promotor and regulator. We are seeing the consequences in uncontrolled fish dumping, opposition to marine reserves, poor law enforcement and a failure to reduce seabird and marine mammal by-kill in the fishing industry.”

“The Government’s obsessive focus on its growth agenda has contributed to a major environmental crisis: polluted rivers and lakes from dairy expansion, plans to sacrifice conservation land for short-term mining and new dams, and new laws to allow the Government to exceed environmental bottom lines.”

“Our public conservation lands are home to some of the world’s most remarkable plants and animals, the source of most of our swimmable rivers and lakes, and the basis of New Zealand’s international brand. It’s absurd that as a country we spend so little protecting it,” says Mr Hague.

Forest & Bird CEO Kevin Hague is speaking on these topics and more at Forest & Bird’s North Canterbury branch AGM tonight: 7.30pm at WEA, 59 Gloucester Street (opp. Art Gallery).

Background notes:

  • Forest & Bird are aware of DOC staff volunteering for critical conservation work because there isn’t the funds to pay them
  • 90-95% of DOC land doesn’t get integrated pest control
  • 80% of kea habitat doesn’t get predator control
  • There is no contingency funding in DOC for biosecurity threats like the myrtle rust incursion
  • Most threatened species lack a plan for their recovery