Nature and scope of the Department of Conservation's functions
The Department of Conservation (DOC) is the central government organisation charged with promoting conservation of the natural and historic heritage of New Zealand on behalf of, and for the benefit of, present and future New Zealanders.
This means DOC has various responsibilities:
- Maintaining as much as possible, in coordination with others, the integrity of New Zealand's indigenous ecosystems
- Acting as guardian to some of New Zealand's cultural and historic heritage
- Contributing to the recreation opportunities of all New Zealanders
- Supporting tourism, one of the country's largest earners of foreign exchange
- Giving effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in accordance with section 4 of the Conservation Act
(See Appendix 1 for a description of DOC's responsibilities and Appendix 2 for the organisational structure and changes taking place.)
Some of DOC's functional responsibilities go beyond the boundaries of public conservation lands and waters. These include the protection of marine mammals, preservation of native freshwater fisheries, and protecting recreational freshwater fisheries and freshwater fish habitats. DOC is responsible for conserving protected native wildlife wherever it occurs. It advocates generally for the conservation of natural and historic resources, provides conservation information, and promotes the economic, environmental and social benefits of conservation.
DOC participates in processes to support several international agreements that serve to improve environmental management in New Zealand and internationally; for example, the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The Department is an important participant in Treaty of Waitangi settlement negotiations and works to help the Government achieve its priority of settling all historical Treaty claims by 2014. DOC's particular focus is on contributing to the development of cultural redress as part of negotiations. For example, the Department supported the Office of Treaty Settlements in the recent settlement with Ngai Tūhoe including the future management of Te Urewera National Park.
DOC works across the central government sector primarily, but not exclusively, through the Natural Resources Sector group.1 In other forums, it works with tangata whenua; landowners; regional and local government; businesses; science providers; recreation, outdoor and conservation organisations; and community groups.
For the 2012/13 year, the then Minister of Conservation, Hon. Kate Wilkinson, determined that DOC would contribute to the Government's six drivers of growth2 by focusing on three particular areas: tourism, recreation opportunities and lifting departmental performance. The new Minister of Conservation Hon. Dr Nick Smith in January 2013 added progress on marine protection to these priorities.
Extensive resources are needed to achieve desired conservation outcomes. This involves building on the increasing public interest in conservation and willingness of many to be actively involved. Underlying all of the Department's work is the understanding that conservation is not done by the Department alone. Many threatened species in fact occur on private land, and local landowners are often best placed to take appropriate action to ensure their survival.
1 Comprising the Department of Conservation; Land Information New Zealand; the Ministry for Primary Industries; the Ministry of Economic Development; the Ministry for the Environment; Te Puni Kōkiri; and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
2 In 2011/12, the Government identified six drivers of growth: 'removing red tape and improving regulation'; 'lifting productivity and improving services in the public sector'; 'investing in productive infrastructure'; 'supporting business innovation and trade'; 'lifting skills'; and 'strengthening the tax system'.