DoC Cuts A Tragedy!

The latest cuts to the DoC workforce bring the total loss to over 330 full-time equivalent positions since 2009, about 15% of the workforce. Despite what Minister Nick Smith and the Director General Al Morrison have claimed, the capacity of the department will be compromised when jobs are cut. While we hear that DoC must tighten its belt when we are in economically tough times, these cut backs are more to do with Government priorities than economic constraints.

While DoC has been told to cut another $2 million from its budget, the Government bailed out a private school (against advice) by $3.9 million and is spending $36 million on the supporting the America's Cup Challenge. The $390 million total budget of DoC is close to the loss incurred by Solid Energy and nothing like the $1 billion being spent to build the Transmission Gully motorway that has failed cost benefit analysis.

We also spend more money on promoting our wild places then we do to protect them. The $12 million that will be used to support Warner bros in marketing the Hobbit movie is all about supporting international perceptions of New Zealand and hiding the reality. This became clear when scientist Mike Joy was demonised when he talked openly about the real state of the New Zealand environment.

DoC has always been underfunded considering the huge responsibilities that it has. Wikipedia describes the extent of the areas under their care as:

"...about 30% of New Zealand's land area or about 8 million hectares of native forests, tussocklands, alpine areas, wetlands, dunelands, estuaries, lakes and islands, national forests, maritime parks, marine reserves, nearly 4000 reserves, river margins, some coastline, and many offshore islands. All of the land under its control is protected for either conservation, ecological, scenic, scientifichistoric or cultural reasons, and for recreation."

To put this in perspective this would amount to around .5 of an employee for each reserve and that doesn't include all the other areas that they are responsible for. While we are told that there will be an expectation that more volunteers will come forward to do the work, it is partly this approach that led to the Cave Creek tragedy. Replacing properly trained professionals with amateurs can come at a cost. The Commission of Inquiry into Cave Creek found:

"...that the Department had not been given sufficient resources to meet its requirements without "cutting corners", and was frequently forced to accept poor quality standards due to its lack of funding.  The report of the Commission concluded that given the department's state, 'a tragedy such as Cave Creek was almost bound to happen'."

The Department is still underfunded and while a human tragedy of this sort may not necessarily happen we are experiencing the tragedy of species loss and the ongoing degradation of our natural places.

Business and corporate support would also be problematic as most would prefer to support the "popular" causes such as kiwi and kakapo rather than more important but less glamorous activity and this funding cannot be relied on.

This Government actually wants to shift DoC away what should be its core function and concentrate on  exploiting the natural resources for commercial gain. National Parks do not feature on Planet Key.


robertguyton said…
I've a letter to the editor. That should stop national in its tracks :-)
bsprout said…
I wrote one too, Robert, so they may have a double hit. Today's editorial was also helpful :-)

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