In the “Annual Report for year ended 30 June 2015

Director-General's overview

The Department of Conservation remains firmly focused on growing conservation by working with others and engaging many more New Zealanders in protecting our natural and historic heritage.

Over the 2014/15 year we strengthened important partnerships making a big difference for conservation, such as work with Project Janszoon to restore the Abel Tasman National Park, the 'Living Water' project with Fonterra, and making Great Mercury Island pest free in collaboration with landowners. Our partnership with Air New Zealand has expanded to include marine monitoring and promotion of marine reserves, in addition to ongoing support for the Great Walks and DOC's biodiversity work. We were delighted to open the new Rangihoua Heritage Park in Northland in December, the result of a long-term partnership between the Marsden Cross Trust Board, the Anglican Church, Ngāti Torehina/Ngāpuhi, and DOC.

The year also saw the beginning of exciting new conservation partnerships. Discussions with the dairy industry, NEXT Foundation, and Gareth and Sam Morgan led to the establishment of the Zero Invasive Predators (ZIP) project in 2014 – a jointly-funded initiative looking for innovative ways to completely eradicate predators from large areas of mainland New Zealand. At a local level, we're tackling predators in collaboration with the Hawke's Bay community, as part of a promising new programme called Cape to City; and we have stepped up work with Northland, Auckland and Waikato communities, iwi and councils – as well as partner agencies in central Government – to prevent further spread of the devastating kauri dieback disease.

Over the year DOC has put a particular focus on positioning itself at the heart of a sustainable New Zealand tourism industry, including investing in providing high-quality outdoor recreation experiences and working more closely with the tourism sector to understand how tourism and conservation can grow together.

We also took significant steps forward in our relationships with iwi. In 2014 we shifted into a new era of co-management when the entity of Te Urewera came into existence. The evolving relationship between DOC and Ngāi Tūhoe continues to expand our experience working through whanaungatanga with our Treaty partners, and actively protecting mātauranga Māori and other cultural values.

Following the internal changes made in 2013, we have listened to our staff and stakeholders and identified areas where we need to make additional changes to improve the way we work within DOC. We have already begun to trial and roll out these enhancements, and I am positive they will set DOC up to work more effectively and further improve how we engage with our partners and communities.

A round up of this year's successes and challenges would not be complete without mentioning our largest ever pest control programme, the Battle for our Birds beechmast response. Twenty-seven aerial 1080 operations were carried out, covering more than 600,000 hectares of South Island beech forest experiencing an exceptionally high beech seeding event. The programme was an outstanding success, with dramatically reduced rat and stoat populations in almost all locations – giving much-needed protection to vulnerable species including mohua, kiwi, riflemen, kea and whio.

We still have much to do, but we take heart from other successes such as the rediscovery of two native herbs, Dysphania pusilla and Leptinella filiformis, previously thought extinct but found to be flourishing in Canterbury and South Marlborough; from growing visitor numbers using our huts, tracks and campsites; and from DOC's inclusion at number 8 on the Ipsos list of the most influential brands in New Zealand. This tells us that New Zealanders value conservation and the work DOC does in leading conservation to protect our nature.

On a personal note, I was humbled to represent DOC at a memorial service on the West Coast in April, as we paused to commemorate 20 years since the Cave Creek tragedy. We will always remember the 13 Tai Poutini Polytechnic students and DOC ranger Stephen O'Dea who lost their lives at Cave Creek in Paparoa National Park in 1995. Twenty years on, much has changed in the way DOC manages its work, but Cave Creek remains a poignant reminder that we must always keep a clear focus on the safety of our staff and visitors.

I would like to thank everyone in the DOC team for their passion and dedication to their work. All New Zealanders can be proud of the conservation gains we have made together this year.

Lou Sanson


11 September 2015

Introducing the Department of Conservation

The 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 a range of responsibilities.

  • In coordination with others, maintaining the integrity of New Zealand's indigenous ecosystems, as much as is possible
  • Acting as guardian to elements 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.

(See Appendix 1 for a more comprehensive description of DOC's responsibilities.)

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
  • Protection of recreational freshwater fisheries and freshwater fish habitats
  • Responsibility for conserving protected native wildlife wherever it occurs
  • Advocacy for the conservation of natural and historic resources
  • Provision of conservation information
  • Promotion of the economic, environmental and social benefits of conservation.

Treaty of Waitangi settlement negotiations are a focus for the Government and DOC plays a key role in negotiations through developing 'cultural redress'. A recent example is the September 2014 Treaty of Waitangi settlement negotiated between Ngāi Tūhoe and the Crown. Te Urewera Act 2014 recognises Te Urewera as the homeland of Ngāi Tūhoe. The Act established Te Urewera Board, a new management planning framework and processes enabling both DOC and Te Uru Taumatua (Ngāi Tūhoe) to undertake operational management for Te Urewera.

DOC works across the central government sector primarily, but not exclusively, through the Natural Resources Sector (NRS). In other forums, it works with tangata whenua, landowners, regional and local government, businesses, science providers, recreation, outdoor and conservation organisations, and community groups.

The conservation challenge

  • 8.6 m ha of public conservation land – 33% of NZ's land area
  • 13 National Parks
  • 44 marine reserves and 8 marine mammal sanctuaries
  • 2,800 threatened species
  • 330 campsites, 960 huts and 14,000 km of tracks

Department of Conservation outcomes

The Department's outcomes model links the intermediate outcomes and the outcome statement to our vision. The outcomes model below shows the strategic approaches and drivers that underpin DOC's work, as set out in figure 1. (DOC's outputs are listed in Appendix 2).

Three of the Intermediate Outcomes have changed wording since the commencement of the financial year, to better reflect DOC's strategic intentions.

Stretch goals

In order to progress towards these outcomes, the Department has worked with stakeholders to develop 10-year stretch goals, which act as milestones on the way.

  • 90 percent of New Zealanders' lives are enriched through connection to our nature.
  • Whānau, hapū and iwi are able to practise their responsibilities as kaitiaki of natural and cultural resources on public conservation lands and waters.
  • 50 percent of New Zealand's natural ecosystems are benefiting from pest management.
  • 50 freshwater ecosystems are restored from 'mountains to the sea'.
  • A nationwide network of marine protected areas is in place, representing New Zealand's marine ecosystems.
  • The stories of 50 historic Icon Sites are told and protected.
  • 50 percent of international holiday visitors come to New Zealand to connect with our natural places.

Figure 1: DOC's outcomes model.

Delivering conservation outcomes for New Zealanders

Challenges and opportunities in a changeable operating environment

New Zealand's natural heritage shapes our cultural identity. Recreation in the outdoors helps to improve the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders and contributes to a sense of personal achievement. Conservation also contributes strongly to tourism, and the Department is one of the country's main tourism providers. The businesses that support or complement tourism are major contributors to our national, regional and local economies.

Conservation protects our natural capital and delivers the infrastructure on which many of our key industries depend. Sound management of the natural environment delivers ecosystem services such as high quality fresh water and fertile soil, and these in turn provide high quality drinking water, underpin New Zealand's primary production sector and help determine New Zealanders' standard of living.

Conservation plays a critical role in supporting the New Zealand brand – the market advantage on which we and our producers rely. Investing in conserving and protecting our natural resources is investing in New Zealand's long-term wellbeing and prosperity, as well as protecting its natural heritage for future generations.

New Zealand's native flora and fauna are unique. However the biodiversity challenge is great – despite a third of the country being public conservation land, New Zealand has one of the highest proportions of threatened species and one of the highest extinction rates in the world due to the relatively recent impacts of fragmentation of ecosystems through human settlement and establishing agriculture, and introduced species. Our native biodiversity is also vulnerable to the increasing impacts of human-induced climate change, which include more frequent and severe storms and a likely increase in predators and weeds.

While biodiversity protection and recovery is being achieved in areas under intensive management, the overall trend outside of these areas is that biodiversity is declining and ecosystem services are being reduced.

DOC sits at the heart of New Zealand's tourism industry, with 35 percent of all international visitors coming primarily to experience our natural landscapes. The Department manages most of New Zealand's major natural tourism attractions and provides extensive opportunities for recreation on conservation land and waterways, including for businesses which support that tourism. However, New Zealand society is changing, with more people living in the top half of the North Island and an increasingly urbanised and multicultural society. The location of the Department's networks of tracks, huts, campsites and other visitor facilities will need to change in order to meet the needs of New Zealanders today and in the future.

The Department recognises that the cost of saving all the species and restoring the health of all the places it has a stewardship role over is well beyond the resources it could realistically expect from the public purse. That has driven the development of the Department's strategic direction – to partner and engage with others on a much wider front to achieve more for conservation than the Department can achieve on its own.

Underpinning DOC's engagement approach is the realisation that to succeed in the long term, partnerships must provide clear value to the partner as well as to conservation. This is a new and challenging way of thinking for DOC.

One strand of the Department's strategy involves achieving immediate, urgently-needed conservation gains through partnerships that deliver direct, powerful conservation impacts, such as work on recognised national biodiversity priorities. However, a different approach is needed to build the groundswell of societal support required for transformational conservation growth over coming decades. Here, the challenge and opportunity lies in building a wider range of relationships, growing people's awareness, knowledge and skills, involving them in conservation-related activity, and supporting the initiatives they lead, both on and off conservation lands and waters, all with a view to fostering a greater sense of responsibility and increased contribution over time. This is the long-term opportunity, and the challenge is to find the right balance between the two since both require resources from DOC.

DOC works within a Treaty partnership with all hāpu and iwi. All of DOC's partnership work with others needs to recognise the ongoing Treaty partnership obligations with whānau, hāpu and iwi. These partnerships are a crucial component of achieving more conservation outcomes. Treaty settlements offer opportunities for confirming ongoing partnerships and strengthening relationships between the Department and hāpu and iwi as Treaty partners. As settlements are implemented, iwi have a greater role and influence in the governance of public conservation land.

DOC has ongoing commitments to 50 Treaty settlements, and the fast pace of future settlements presents challenges to both DOC and Treaty partners' capability and capacity. Te Pukenga Atawhai Programme is helping grow staff capability in this area but more capability building will be required to meet these future needs, particularly when it comes to implementing settlement arrangements and understanding how to reflect iwi aspirations.

Performance summary – medium term

The Department measures progress towards long-term goals in five core business streams, and in seven capability categories..

Natural heritage

The diversity of our natural heritage is maintained and restored.

Historic heritage

Our history is brought to life and protected.


New Zealanders and our visitors are enriched by outdoor experiences.


New Zealanders connect and contribute to conservation.

Business partnerships

Every business fosters conservation for this and future generations.


Our business is supported by a capable workforce and sound systems.

The table below shows the Department's rating of its performance this year.


Performance improving.  Performance improving

Performance maintained.  Performance maintained

Performance declining.  Performance declining

Performance measures to be developed.  Performance measures yet to be developed

One or more of the conditions listed may apply. The results for some outcomes, notably natural heritage, reflect a composite of indicators and measures which may individually be improving or declining, and the performance rating is a generalisation.


Improving – Progress towards the outcome described is positive; overall conditions are improving; numbers are increasing; targets are being met or exceeded.

Maintained – The state of the outcome described is stable; overall conditions are neither improving nor declining; numbers are stable; if targets are being met, then the outcome is being achieved.

Declining – Progress towards the outcome described is negative; overall conditions are degrading; numbers are decreasing; targets are not being met.

Department of Conservation national performance indicators

Our overall outcome

Tracking trends in the benefits New Zealanders seek and receive from the natural, historic and cultural heritage managed by DOC

Performance maintained.

Tracking the relative value of conservation as an indicator of support for conservation

Performance maintained.

Natural heritage

Species occupancy – the species present are the ones you would expect naturally

Performance maintained.

Indigenous dominance – ecological processes are natural

Performance maintained.

Ecosystem representation – the full range of ecosystems is protected somewhere1

Performance declining.

Historic heritage


The condition of actively conserved historic places

Performance improving.

The trend in New Zealanders' awareness of the Department as a manager of historic places

Performance maintained.

The trend in visitor numbers at Historic Icon sites

Performance maintained.

The trend in visitor satisfaction with the quality of the experience provided at historic places

Performance maintained.



The trend over time in New Zealanders' awareness of DOC as a recreation provider

Performance declining.

The trend in participation in recreation on public conservation lands and waters

Performance improving.

The trend in visitor satisfaction with the quality of the experiences and opportunities provided

Performance maintained.



Change in the satisfaction of tangata whenua with the Department's activities to help them maintain their cultural relationships with taonga

Performance measures to be developed.

Change in the importance of conservation to New Zealanders

Performance maintained.

Change in the quality of the Department's engagement with key associates

Performance maintained.

Business partnerships


Increase in engagement of the commercial sector in conservation partnerships

Performance improving.

Change in the level of investment in conservation from the commercial sector

Performance improving.

Improvement in level of return on investment for key DOC products and services

Performance improving.

Organisational capability


Leadership: the Department has the leaders it needs to perform well now and in the future

Performance improving.

Relationships: the Department identifies, builds and manages relationships critical to achieving results

Performance improving.

Culture: the Department has the type of culture it needs to achieve results now and in the future

Performance maintained.

People: the Department has the skills and competencies to achieve its results in collaboration with others

Performance maintained.

Information and communications technology (ICT): the Department has the ICT it needs to achieve results and contribute to others

Performance maintained.

Asset management: the Department's asset-related decisions support current and future service delivery

Performance maintained.

Structure: the Department's structure is linked to its results and future business needs

Performance improving.

Summary of annual output performance

Performance trend by financial year

Significant output measures







Beech mast response – hectares under restoration







Possums – hectares sustained2







Possums – hectares treated







Goats – hectares sustained







Goats – hectares treated



1, 353,319




Deer – hectares sustained







Deer – hectares treated







Weeds ecosystem – hectares sustained



1, 752,995




Weeds ecosystem – hectares treated







Threatened species – improved security







Threatened species – managed for persistence3







Ecosystems – managed for ecological integrity







Historic assets – remedial work to standard






90% of 21

Historic assets – maintenance work to standard






75% of 1,400

Recreation assets – huts to standard (90%)







Recreation assets – tracks to standard (45%)







Recreation assets – structures to standard (95%)







Engagement – volunteer workday equivalents







Engagement – partnerships







1 This indicator is made up of terrestrial, freshwater and marine components. The terrestrial component has met its first milestone of more than 400 ecosystem management units under management. The marine and freshwater components will be progressed through the stretch goals established during the 2014/2015 year.

2 Lessons learnt from Battle for our Birds mean some sustained possum operations will switch in out-years to rat operations with possums as a bycatch, resulting in a reported drop of sustained possum control.

3 For an explanation of the 'species persistence' performance, see the measure 'Number of species under active management through optimised species prescriptions' on page 23.

Our overall outcome

Impact we seek

New Zealanders gain environmental, social and economic benefits from healthy functioning ecosystems, from recreation opportunities, and from living our history.

Impact indicators

Tracking trends in the benefits New Zealanders seek and receive from the natural, historic and cultural heritage managed by DOC Performance maintained.

Tracking the relative value of conservation as an indicator of support for conservation Performance maintained.

An important foundation for achieving this outcome is people's attitudes – having respect for the environment and being supportive of conservation. We believe this will result from people having a wider understanding of how conservation makes a difference to their wellbeing.

DOC monitors two indicators to show its progress in achieving the outcome statement.

Tracking trends in the benefits New Zealanders seek and receive from the natural, historic and cultural heritage managed by DOC.

This indicator provides a measure of New Zealanders' view of the 'benefits' received from natural, historical and cultural heritage. Work continues within DOC and externally (nationally and internationally) that will help to increase understanding and enable these benefits to be better demonstrated.

A recent exploration of the ecosystem services contributing to the wellbeing of New Zealand and New Zealanders4 calls for the 'need to be more aware of how ecosystems support wellbeing in our day-to-day lives, and be clear about the impacts of our consumption on biodiversity and ecosystem functions. Only then can we hope to achieve the 'double dividend' of enhanced wellbeing and flourishing ecosystem services'. This publication provides an overview of international literature on the subject of ecosystem services, offering nine different categories of benefit that contribute to our wellbeing. Measuring these benefits will help demonstrate how significant nature is to society and individuals.

Tourism on public conservation land generates jobs

In the year ended March 2013, the tourism industry directly provided 5.7 percent of total employment (110 800 FTEs) in New Zealand. The contribution of public conservation land to tourism employment opportunities has been estimated for several areas in New Zealand, including Tongariro National Park, where tourism concessions were estimated to have generated about 14 percent of the Ruapehu–Taupo region's tourism employment in 2004/05, and Fiordland National Park, where they represented nearly 10 percent of Southland's tourism employment in 2003. Similarly, economic activities on public conservation land made a significant contribution to both employment (15 percent) and household income (13 percent) in the West Coast region in 2003 (Roberts et al. 2015).4

Many recreation opportunities are available because of the existence of public conservation land. Data from a 7-yearly national angler survey showed that anglers are shifting from lowland rivers and streams to higher altitudes to fish, appearing to be a response to the higher water quality in and coming from our hill country and mountains (Roberts et al. 2015).4

Personal benefits of conservation

In response to the question What do you consider the main benefits of conservation to you personally to be? 5 a similar set of responses was received when compared with results from 2013/14. An increase can be seen in the percentage of respondents suggesting benefits of preserving and protecting natural environments and green spaces (up from 18 percent in 2013/14 to 33 percent in 2014/15), and the ability to access and enjoy healthy safe natural environments (up from 16 percent in 2013/14 to 26 percent in 2014/15). Further investigation of these results may offer insight into how to fully engage New Zealanders in conservation.

Relative value is stable

Tracking the relative value of conservation as an indicator of support for conservation.

Results from the national survey indicate that 81 percent of New Zealanders think that conservation is important to them (rated important or very important in the survey response options). This shows strong and stable opinion, following an earlier higher response rate in 2010/11.

Table 1: Percentage of New Zealanders who consider conservation is important or very important to them personally.

Thinking about of conservation overall, how important is conservation to you personally?



New survey method



Rated 4 or 5 out of 5, with 5 being 'Very important'






4 Roberts, L.; Brower, A.; Kerr, G.; Lambert, S.; McWilliam, W.; Moore, K.; Quinn, J.; Simmons, D.; Thrush, S.; Townsend, M.; Blaschke, P.; Costanza, R.; Cullen, R.; Hughey, K.; Wratten, S. 2015: The nature of wellbeing: how nature's ecosystem services contribute to the wellbeing of New Zealand and New Zealanders. Department of Conservation, Wellington. 145 p.

5 Ipsos 2015a: Full Report: Survey of New Zealanders. Report prepared for the Department of Conservation. Ipsos New Zealand, Auckland.

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