In the “Annual Report for year ended 30 June 2007”
Alastair Morrison, Director-General
As the Department marked its 20th birthday in April 2007 there was much to celebrate. We have become an organisation known in New Zealand and in the wider world for its technical skills in tackling conservation challenges. There are always new challenges and we are continually looking for ways to improve our effectiveness in meeting those challenges.
As I travel around conservancies, I’ve become increasingly aware that we are also very good at working with others in the interests of conservation. Throughout the organisation there has been an increasing momentum towards seeing that the Department is part of a wider front of conservation action in New Zealand, and making that happen.
I applaud both of these aspects of the Department, and I see them both as critical to the way forward for conservation. The review of the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy told us that despite gains already made, the task ahead is still immense. So we have to keep increasing our ability to work smarter, and to work in collaborative ways. Part of working smarter is devoting attention to building up the systems that support our work, the data collection, measurement, and prioritisation systems that will increasingly help us to decide where and how we can get the best returns for conservation. The sections of this report that deal with the Protection outcome outline these capability initiatives, as well as reporting on the achievements made on the ground during the year.
Similarly, the sections of the report that deal with the Appreciation outcome show the range of ways in which the Department has been helping to connect people with conservation, and the conservation gains achieved with the help of others. This includes the growing trend for tourism operators to put effort back into conserving the natural resources they rely on. The Department’s continued drive to improve the quality of outdoor recreation facilities and opportunities for New Zealanders is well illustrated by the stories of this year’s achievements. Here, as in other areas of its work, the Department is increasingly working with local communities, iwi, and businesses.
Just as the Department has not stood still over 20 years, there is now far greater awareness of, and more extensive engagement in, conservation by New Zealanders than was the case in 1987. This came through strongly in a poll commissioned by the Department in 2006–2007. Over ninety per cent of New Zealanders polled say that conservation of plants and animals, national parks, and water and land habitats are very important to them. The poll results are backed up by the actions that New Zealanders take. The Queen Elizabeth II Trust cannot keep up with landowner demand to covenant land for conservation, while the Nga Whenua Rahui fund mirrors that for Maori land. Community groups and private trusts are creating significant conservation gains, and regional and local authorities are heavily involved in conservation work.
Our Strategic Direction reminds us of these connections between conservation and the wider community. Conservation happens because people want it to happen, and the more people want it to happen the more conservation will be achieved. Taken together, the Government’s priorities, the Department’s statutory framework and the Strategic Direction provide the backdrop to our ongoing review of our two main planning systems, the Statement of Intent and the Conservation Management Strategies.
As the Department moves forward into the next 20 years, we will keep working to protect New Zealand’s natural and historic heritage for its intrinsic values, and for economic, cultural, physical, spiritual and national identity values. Through its contribution to all of these values, conservation is part of the infrastructure of New Zealand’s future, particularly as the country meets the challenges of sustainability and climate change. It is very fitting that we are one of the six lead agencies for the pilot of Carbon Neutrality in the Public Service. We will strive to model sustainability in our operations, and we have the potential to be a significant part of the solution, as we continue to explore carbon offset options on public conservation lands.