In the “Statement of Intent 2003 – 2006

The Department of Conservation is the leading central government agency responsible for the conservation of New Zealand’s natural and historic heritage. Its legislative mandate is the Conservation Act 1987 (“the Conservation Act”) and other key statutes such as the National Parks Act 1980 (“the National Parks Act”) and Reserves Act 1977 (“the Reserves Act”). Like other government departments, the Department has the responsibility to advise Ministers and the Government and to implement Government policy.

The Department’s key functions as set out in the Conservation Act are to:

  • Manage land and other natural and historic resources.
  • Preserve as far as practicable all indigenous freshwater fisheries.
  • Protect recreational fisheries and freshwater habitats.
  • Advocate conservation of natural and historic resources.
  • Promote the benefits of conservation (including Antarctica and internationally).
  • Provide conservation information.
  • Foster recreation and allow tourism, to the extent that use is not inconsistent with the conservation of any natural or historic resource.

The Department has a particular responsibility under s4 of the Conservation Act to interpret and administer the Act so as to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. This involves building and supporting effective conservation relationships with tangata whenua at the local level.

The Department also contributes to the conservation and sustainable management of natural and historic heritage in areas for which it is not directly responsible. It does this through its roles under other statutes including the Resource Management Act 1991 (“the Resource Management Act”), the Fisheries Acts 1983 and 1996, the Marine Reserves Act 1971, the Biosecurity Act 1993, the Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977 and the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998.

Conservation management and the work of the Department are characterised by a high level of public interest. Conservation is based on societal support and on the concept that conservation land is the common heritage of all New Zealanders. As such, conservation land is public land. These principles are inherent in all conservation legislation. One formal avenue for public input into conservation management is through conservation boards and the New Zealand Conservation Authority, independent bodies appointed by the Minister. The Authority has powers to approve formal management plans binding the Department, and also serves to advise the Minister.

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