In the “Annual Report for year ended 30 June 2013

Opportunities and challenges in a changeable operating environment

Challenges

DOC, in common with the rest of the public sector, continues to face the challenges of delivering better and smarter public services within its current resources. This involves managing public expectations as to what it should deliver and continuing to improve its ability to recruit, retain and develop staff.

The task of delivering conservation gains to ensure the security of native species and ecosystems is bigger than DOC can achieve alone. Ecosystems, and the species within them, have no regard for boundaries between public and privately owned environments. Conservation thinking, therefore, must be integrated into all activities that impact on, or support, healthy ecosystems. This extends to central and local government policies, business resource use, waste disposal and supply chains, and individuals' own actions.

Opportunities

Society benefits from successfully delivered conservation. Ecosystem services provided by natural environments include water capture and purification, flood control, climate regulation and influences on nutrient cycles. As well as having responsibility for protecting natural resources, DOC also manages historic heritage and recreation opportunities. These strengthen New Zealand's cultural identity, enrich New Zealanders' leisure time, encourage healthy lifestyles and increase awareness of and support for conservation. Businesses directly benefit where they are involved in contributing to conservation delivery. Benefits include the revenue derived from providing services to visitors, and the brand association with New Zealand's image of abundant natural wonders and a cared-for environment.

Many New Zealanders think conservation is at the heart of what it means to be a New Zealander.3 This means DOC can work with community, iwi, whānau, hapū, business and individuals to harness their efforts to achieve conservation gain. A prosperous business sector is a component of a prosperous society. The aim is to ensure that natural capital4 is a positive and growing component of the economy.

Our strategies

Growing conservation in partnership

New Zealanders have many conservation achievements they can be proud of, but, as a country, we still face big environmental challenges.

Where DOC and others are working, great results for conservation are being achieved, but a general decline in the status of many species and ecosystems is still occurring. A lot more needs to be done, across all of New Zealand, to halt the decline of the natural environment.

It has become increasingly apparent that no one organisation, including DOC, can tackle these challenges on its own. To really have an impact on conservation and deliver increased benefits to New Zealanders, work to protect indigenous species and ecosystems must occur on a much broader scale, wherever they occur across New Zealand. This means engaging many more people in conservation and enabling others to play their part.

Over the past year, DOC has made organisational changes that will enable it to increase conservation efforts by working more effectively with others. DOC is working with business, communities, iwi, whānau and hapū, to take conservation beyond DOC's traditional boundaries and out onto farms, and into communities and people's back gardens.

We are also working with Natural Resources Sector colleagues and local authorities to ensure a coordinated government approach to how we measure, monitor and manage New Zealand's natural assets.

DOC co-sponsored the 'Valuing Nature' conference in Wellington in July 2013, along with other Natural Resources Sector agencies, Victoria University of Wellington and the Sustainable Business Council. The conference attracted around 400 leaders from business, local and central government, academia and community organisations. Over 2 days, it explored the new vision for biodiversity that is emerging globally. This vision calls for wider recognition of nature's contribution to our livelihoods, health, security and prosperity.

Valuing natural capital

DOC recognises that protecting and preserving nature for its intrinsic value and recreational purposes is only a part of the value that native biodiversity and its conservation represents to New Zealanders. The plight of the kiwi is not just about the kiwi. The quality and quantity of New Zealand's native ecosystems and the species within them has broad direct and indirect impacts on New Zealand's prosperity. Collectively, New Zealand's native species indicate how healthy ecosystems are (be they forests, grasslands, wetlands or oceans). The health of these ecosystems determines the quality and quantity of the goods and services that nature provides and on which the economy and country relies.

Ecosystem services

Ecosystem services are the goods and services provided by ecosystems from which New Zealanders derive benefit.

Ecosystem services are underpinned by biodiversity—these services flow directly from the presence of life on earth.

Ecosystem services can be categorised into four types:

  • Provisioning
  • Regulatory
  • Cultural (those relating to the needs of people)
  • Supporting (those that underpin the three other ecosystems services and are part of the mechanisms and processes which generate them)5

Provisioning services
Products obtained from ecosystems

  • Food
  • Fresh water
  • Fuel
  • Fibre
  • Biochemicals
  • Genetic resources
  • Medicines

Regulating services
Benefits obtained from ecosystem processes

  • Climate regulation
  • Disease regulation
  • Water regulation
  • Water purification
  • Pollination
  • Flood protection

Cultural services
Non-material benefits obtained from ecosystems

  • Spiritual and religious
  • Recreational and ecotourism
  • Aesthetic
  • Inspirational
  • Educational
  • Sense of place
  • Cultural heritage

Supporting services
Services necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services

  • Soil formation
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Primary production

Demonstrating the value derived from ecosystems, and managing natural capital, are points of focus for DOC and many other environmental management agencies. The benefits we as a country derive from natural capital are critically important to our economic and social wellbeing.

Just as it is possible to overdraw on financial capital and build non-productive debt, the same is true with natural capital, resulting in damage to long-term economic viability and living standards. But, unlike man-made capital, no dedicated system exists to measure, monitor and report on natural capital and the ecosystems services it provides. As a country, we may be exploiting and degrading our natural capital more quickly than it can regenerate, without even realising it. Consideration needs to be given to the contribution natural capital and ecosystem services make to New Zealand’s prosperity and wellbeing alongside that of man-made capital.

In working with others, DOC can ensure New Zealanders derive benefit on and off public conservation lands and waters.

This is a new way of thinking about conservation and a challenge to the approach that has prevailed. It shifts DOC's role from an organisation focused on carrying out conservation work to one that leads and enables the work of others.

DOC is seeking to position itself across its capabilities (structure, systems, culture, and skills) and to be open to working with others in ways it has historically been reluctant to entertain. DOC will be enabling, supporting and working to others' priorities as well as its own.

Over the next year, the Department will continue to investigate the contribution of New Zealand’s natural capital assets, and their conservation, to the wellbeing and prosperity of New Zealanders. To do this, DOC will be working to gain a better understanding of:

  • The condition, or state and trend, of the natural capital stock (the protected areas, biodiversity and ecosystems that it has responsibility for) from a natural capital perspective
  • The threats and pressures the natural capital stock is under
  • The ecosystem goods and services that flow from this capital stock
  • The value derived from these ecosystem goods and services
  • How to better invest in 'capital maintenance' and manage these ecosystem services

A long-term research and development programme is under way to expand the Department's knowledge of the flow of ecosystem goods and services and how it can better manage and report them.

Reporting on the results

Results of the Department's achievements against the 2012-2017 Statement of Intent are outlined in the following report, which is presented in two sections:

  • Summary of results
    This section covers each of the five intermediate outcomes and important capability areas. Information is presented in infographics6 highlighting notable facts about conservation management and results, supplemented by reporting on key performance indicators, and reports on outputs (statements of service performance). The source of the information for the infographics includes results from this Annual Report, as well as data derived from DOC's financial and asset databases.
  • Commentary on results
    This section also covers each of the five intermediate outcomes and important capability areas, providing more detail explaining results and the work programmes DOC has under way. Some information from the first summary section is repeated for context.

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3 The Nielsen Company 2013: Survey of New Zealanders. Report prepared for the Department of Conservation. The Nielsen Company, Wellington.

4 'Natural capital' refers to New Zealand’s ecosystems, biodiversity and natural resources - these underpin economies, societies and individual wellbeing. In addition to traditional natural resources, such as timber, water, energy, and mineral reserves, it also includes biodiversity, endangered species and the ecosystems that perform ecological services.

5 From the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment framework. Read the report on the Millennium Exosystme Assessment website

6 These infographics are merely visual representations of data and are not necessarily to scale.

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