In the “Statement of Intent 2012–2017

The Department of Conservation (DOC) was established by the Conservation Act 1987, and is charged with promoting conservation of the natural and historic heritage of New Zealand on behalf of, and for the benefit of, the present and future generations.

DOC also has functions under a number of other Acts, including the National Parks Act 1980, the Marine Reserves Act 1971, the Reserves Act 1977, the Wild Animal Control Act 1977, the Wildlife Act 1953 and the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978.

The Minister of Conservation is the Responsible Minister, and DOC’s work is funded through Vote Conservation.

The main functions of DOC are:

  • Managing land, fresh and coastal waters, and historic sites that have been protected for conservation purposes—about 8.5 million hectares of land, 33 marine reserves (covering almost 1.28 million hectares), and 6 marine mammal sanctuaries (covering approximately 2.4 million hectares).

  • Encouraging recreation on these public conservation lands and waters by providing visitor facilities, including walking, biking and 4WD tracks, huts, campsites, visitor centres and access to historic sites.

  • Authorising tourism operators and other third party activities such as grazing, electricity generation and transmission, mining and the use of sites for telecommunication purposes on public conservation lands and waters. 

  • Protecting marine mammals, preserving native freshwater fisheries, and protecting recreational freshwater fisheries and freshwater fish habitats, and conserving protected native wildlife.

  • Advocating generally for the conservation of natural and historic resources, providing conservation information, and supporting international agreements designed to improve environmental management in New Zealand and internationally.

  • Supporting the Minister of Conservation in exercising her responsibilities under the Resource Management Act 1991 for the coastal and marine environment, including in relation to councils’ policies and plans, and consent applications regarding the coastal and marine environment.

  • Providing policy and legal advice to the Minister of Conservation, contributing to whole-of-government policy processes, and servicing ministerial advisory committees and the New Zealand Conservation Authority.

DOC interprets and administers the Conservation Act 1987 to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in accordance with section 4 of the Act.

DOC works across the central government sector, primarily, but not exclusively, through the natural resources sector group. It works in partnerships with tangata whenua; and with landowners; regional and local government; businesses; science providers; recreation, outdoor and conservation organisations; philanthropists; and community groups.1

DOC’s mandate and context is also set by a statutory planning framework that supports the legislation: the Conservation General Policy, the General Policy for National Parks, and the strategies and plans that flow from these policies. A series of Conservation Management Strategies (CMSs) identify the places that DOC manages on behalf of New Zealanders, and establish ‘outcomes at places’ and high-level objectives that provide guidance for the management of public conservation lands and waters.2

The national office in Wellington provides national leadership, science and technical advice and support, along with organisational service and support functions such as finance and human resources functions. 

Fieldwork and conservation outputs are delivered mainly from the network of 44 area offices. The 44 areas are grouped into 11 conservancies, each with a small conservancy office to provide support. The conservancies are led by the Deputy Director-General Operations.

As at 31 March 2012, DOC employed 1715.53 permanent full-time equivalent staff and 375.19 temporary full-time equivalent staff.


1 Find further information on DOC. This includes legislation DOC administers, relevant international conventions, the organisation’s structure, location of the offices, etc.

2 The Conservation General Policy, Conservation Management Strategies, and Conservation Management Plans are prepared in accordance with the Conservation Act 1987, Part 3A. National Park Management Plans are prepared in accordance with the National Parks Act 1980, ss 45–48.

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