General information about how conservation work is planned and carried out, using statutory tools under the Conservation Act and other applicable legislation.

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4.1 Overview

DOC administers and manages all conservation areas and natural and historic resources held under the Act across Aotearoa New Zealand, and other land and natural and historic resources whose owner agrees with the Minister that they should be managed by DOC. 

This is achieved through statutory tools including conservation general policy, Conservation Management Strategies (CMSs), Conservation Management Plans (CMPs) and freshwater fisheries management plans, all referred to in the Conservation Act.

DOC also manages national parks through general policy for national parks and National Park Management Plans (NPMPs), provided for in the National Parks Act.

Conservation Boards participate in statutory management planning and conservation management in a variety of ways, set out in section 5 of this Manual.

4.2 Essential considerations: Give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi

Section 4 of the Conservation Act requires anyone working under the Act (including Conservation Boards and the NZCA) to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi when interpreting or administering anything under the Act.  It is vital that Board members have a sound understanding of, and appreciation for, the Treaty dimension of Conservation Board work.

The NZCA has developed its own policy in relation to section 4 obligations, which is published on the DOC website: Giving effect to section 4 of the Conservation Act 1987: New Zealand Conservation Authority. Boards are encouraged to adopt the principles for their own purposes.

The statutory responsibility under section 4 of the Act applies to all aspects of work carried out by Conservation Boards.  A 2018 Supreme Court judgement in the case of Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki Tribal Trust v Minister of Conservation underscores the importance of this obligation and how it impacts on the way decisions around public conservation land are made.  DOC’s own refreshed organisational strategy elevates these principles, which arise out of both legislation and evolving case law. 

Section 4 is integral to the work of Conservation Boards, as the statutory management planning processes that Boards engage with involve interfacing with whānau, hapū and iwi in the Board’s rohe.  In addition, cultural redress including treaty settlements may result in co-governance or co-management with iwi, providing new opportunities for the way public conservation land is managed within a Board’s rohe.

4.3 General Policy Statements

Under the Conservation Act, DOC is required to prepare two general policy statements.  These set policy which is then delivered via CMSs and NPMPs. Conservation general policy is prepared in accordance with the Conservation Act and is approved by the Minister.  General policy for national parks is prepared in accordance with the National Parks Act and is approved by the NZCA.

General policy is the highest level of statutory policy for conservation management on public conservation land and waters, including national parks in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Learn more about General Policy

4.4 Conservation Management Strategies (CMS)

A CMS is a 10-year regional strategy which provides objectives and contains policies for the management of specific areas of conservation land and waters. A region’s CMS implements the general policies and establishes objectives for integrated management of natural and historic resources (including any species managed by DOC), and for recreation, tourism and other conservation purposes. CMSs are also recognised under the Resource Management Act.

CMSs are developed by DOC in consultation with Conservation Boards and are approved by the NZCA.

Learn more about Conservation Management Strategies

4.5 Conservation Management Plans (CMP)

A CMP implements a CMS.  A CMP is a 10-year plan which provides detailed objectives for integrated management of natural and historic resources within an area managed by DOC, and for recreation, tourism, and other conservation purposes. 

CMPs are developed under the Conservation Act and any other applicable legislation, including Treaty settlement legislation and the Reserves Act.  They have usually been developed to provide a greater role for whānau, hapū and iwi in managing a conservation park or area as a result of a Treaty settlement, or where there is a high level of activity or complex issues that cannot be adequately dealt with solely through the region’s CMS.

There is an active programme of revocation concerning many CMPs across the country, as they are being replaced with regional CMSs.  A Board’s role in the withdrawal or revocation of a CMP is set out at section 5.3.3 of this Manual.

4.6 National Park Management Plans (NPMP)

NPMPs are developed under the National Parks Act and are 10-year plans that provides management objectives for Aotearoa New Zealand’s national parks. National parks are areas preserved in perpetuity for their intrinsic worth and for the benefit, use and enjoyment of the public. NPMPs are the primary document used in making management decisions for national parks.  These are approved by the NZCA. 

Nothing in any NPMP shall derogate (run contrary to) provisions of any CMS.

Learn more about National Park Management Plans

4.7 Reviewing and amending strategies and plans

A CMS must be reviewed no later than 10 years after its approval date (although the Minister can extend this period). Within a 10-year period, a CMS, or parts of a CMS, may become inadequate, impractical, or become superseded by new information. Only DOC can initiate a full or partial review at any time, in consultation with the Conservation Board affected. If a CMS is amended, it is then approved by the NZCA.

DOC provides monitoring reports on CMPs and NPMPs to Conservation Boards once (or more) per annum. This allows a Board to monitor implementation of a CMS and recommend appropriate responses to changing circumstances in the Board's rohe.  Boards can also establish other indicators relating to implementation and reporting, in consultation with the Operations Director.

4.8 Concessions

4.8.1 Overview

A concession is an authorisation to undertake an activity in an area managed by DOC.  Concession applications are administered by DOC and granted in the name of the Minister (s17Q(1)).  A concession may be in the form of a lease, licence, permit or easement.

A concession is required for any commercial or organised activity including a trade, business or occupation, in an area of public conservation land managed by DOC.  A concession gives a concessionaire:

  • a legal right to carry out their activity on lands managed by DOC
  • a formal relationship with DOC, so that both parties are aware of their obligations
  • security of tenure for the term of the concession, provided that the conditions of the concession are complied with.

The concession system helps DOC to ensure that activities are compatible with DOC’s primary purpose to look after New Zealand's natural and historic heritage. It also helps ensure services and facilities provided for visitors are appropriate and of a suitable standard, and that activities do not conflict with visitor enjoyment and recreation.

4.8.2 What DOC considers in granting concessions

In considering whether to grant a concession, DOC needs to ensure that it is consistent with legislative requirements. This includes ensuring the proposed activity is not contrary to the purpose for which the land is held, and that a concession would not be inconsistent with the relevant CMS for the area, and any relevant CMPs or NPMPs. Any adverse effects on the environment must be adequately avoided, remedied or mitigated.

If the proposal includes buildings or structures, DOC will also consider whether the activity could reasonably be undertaken in another location where potential adverse effects would be reduced.

4.8.3 Role of Conservation Boards in permissions processes

A Board’s role in relation to permissions management is purely advisory. Boards provide policy advice rather than detailed comments on permissions applications. This provides a separate stream of advice, based on the skills and expertise of Board members, to help DOC (the statutory decision-maker, on delegation from the Minister – s17Q) form their decisions on applications.

Boards have the right to be informed of concession applications, to enable them to give informed advice to DOC or the NZCA. However, a Board may decline to provide advice on any application. Boards may also be consulted over the interpretation of a NPMP, especially if a concession application relates to a new activity not provided for in the plan.

Many Conservation Boards have a committee delegated to provide comments on concession applications on behalf of the Board.  Having a standing committee ensures a Board can provide timely feedback on permission applications, between scheduled meetings. Many Boards have developed a set of ‘triggers’ to help Board servicing staff decide whether a concession application they receive should be referred to the Board, although some Boards may also choose to receive a periodic report of all new applications received.  Boards should periodically review their triggers to ensure they remain fit for purpose in response to changing conditions.

Some Boards may also wish to receive access arrangement applications to comment on (access arrangements are required for access to mining permits over public conservation land). 

If the Board is concerned about DOC’s intention to grant a notified permission, then the Board may make a submission and then has the right to be heard at a hearing. Otherwise; the Board may have an observer at a hearing, but only by agreement with the Operations Director or DOC staff member in charge of the hearing.  Conservation Boards do not sit on hearing panels for concession applications unless invited to by DOC.  

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