About the conservation system, and roles of the Minister of Conservation, Department of Conservation, the New Zealand Conservation Authority, Conservation Boards and other statutory/advisory bodies.

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2.1 Overview

Management planning under the Conservation Act is centred around a group of key relationships and interdependent functions. The role and contribution of all stakeholders is essential to achieving conservation sector aims.

2.2 Minister of Conservation

The Minister of Conservation is accountable to the House of Representatives and is the Minister that DOC advises, reports to, and often acts under delegation from.  The Minister has various duties, powers and functions specified in conservation legislation, including:

  • approving Conservation General Policy
  • granting concessions for activities to take place on public conservation land
  • acquiring land and recommending the creation of national parks
  • establishing marine mammal sanctuaries and marine reserves
  • appointing and removing Board members.

Find out more about our Minister of Conservation.

2.3 Department of Conservation

2.3.1 DOC’s work under the Conservation Act

The purpose of the Conservation Act is to promote the conservation of Aotearoa New Zealand’s natural and historic resources.  The Act establishes the government agency called the Department of Conservation (DOC).

DOC’s functions are set out at section 6 of the Act.  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. 

DOC is also a regulator and law enforcer: it regulates activities on public conservation land and waters to minimise negative impacts on indigenous species and ecosystems.  This regulatory work is supported by a number of statutory management planning tools. 

DOC administers the Conservation Act and other Acts specified in Schedule 1 of the Act.  DOC's work includes:

  • managing for conservation purposes, all land, and all other natural and historic resources held under the Conservation Act, and all other land and natural and historic resources whose owner agrees with the Minister that they should be managed by DOC.
  • preserving as far as is practicable all indigenous freshwater fisheries, and protecting recreational freshwater fisheries and freshwater fish habitats
  • advocating the conservation of natural and historic resources generally
  • promoting the benefits to present and future generations of:
    • conserving natural and historic resources generally and the natural and historic resources of New Zealand in particular
    • conserving the natural and historic resources of New Zealand’s sub-antarctic islands (and consistently with all relevant international agreements), of the Ross Dependency and Antarctica generally
    • international co-operation on matters relating to conservation.

Under the Conservation Act DOC also:

  • prepares, provides, disseminates, promotes, and publicises educational and promotional material relating to conservation
  • fosters the use of natural and historic resources for recreation, and allows their use for tourism (where the use of the resource is not inconsistent with its conservation)
  • advises the Minister on matters relating to any of those functions or to conservation generally.

Read more about DOC’s work.

2.3.2 DOC’s organisational strategy

DOC’s work is guided by its organisational strategy Te Kaupapa a Te Papa Atawhai, which focuses on efforts to restore and protect Aotearoa New Zealand’s biodiversity, with an emphasis on ensuring DOC’s Treaty settlement obligations are met and that DOC works effectively with whānau, hapū and iwi across Aotearoa New Zealand on conservation matters.

Papatūānuku Thrives is DOC’s purpose, steering its organisational roles, principles and behaviours to seek outcomes of healthy nature, thriving communities and people who care.

Learn more about DOC.

2.4 The New Zealand Conservation Authority

The New Zealand Conservation Authority (the NZCA) is an independent statutory body, established by s6A of the Conservation Act, which advises the Minister and DOC on conservation priorities, policies, strategic direction and practices at a national level. Its membership is set out under the Act at s 6D (1).  Members are appointed by the Minister of Conservation.

The NZCA represents the long-term public interest in conservation generally, and particularly in relation to national parks.

The NZCA’s functions are set out in the Conservation Act, National Parks Act 1980 and Reserves Act 1977. The NZCA is responsible for approving General Policy for National Parks, Conservation Management Strategies (CMSs) and National Park Management Plans (NPMPs). It also recommends the addition of land to national parks and investigates the potential for creating new national parks.

The NZCA engages with Conservation Boards through its statutory functions and liaison activity but is not an appeal authority to review decisions or actions of a Conservation Board.  A Board can elevate any issue it considers has national importance via the NZCA.

Learn more about the NZCA.

2.5 Conservation Boards

Conservation Boards (Boards) are independent statutory bodies, established by s6L of the Conservation Act.

Conservation Boards provide for interaction between the public and DOC at a regional level.  Each Board represents its community within a specified rohe (geographical area). A Conservation Board’s primary role is to advise DOC and the NZCA on conservation matters in their jurisdiction.

Conservation Boards contribute a local voice and perspective to the management of conservation areas. They provide a forum for seeking community views and feeding information back to communities of interest, as well as providing feedback on DOC's work in each Board rohe.  Boards focus on matters of policy, strategic direction and planning.  Boards do not focus on day to day operations across the rohe; these are managed by DOC staff.

There are 15 Conservation Boards that provide representation across the entire contry, including the Chatham Islands. Here is a list of the Conservation Boards and their areas of jurisdiction.

2.5.1 Functions and powers of Conservation Boards

Conservation Boards have powers and functions under a range of legislation, including the Conservation Act. See section 5 of this Manual for an outline of all Conservation Board legislative functions.

2.5.2 Membership of Conservation Boards

Board members contribute valuable knowledge of nature conservation, natural science, cultural heritage, recreation, tourism, the local community and Māori perspectives and values. Members are appointed to Boards based on the knowledge and perspective they are able to bring to the collective, and their ability to articulate the concerns of different sections of the community. A diverse Board membership leads to sound and well-informed discussions of conservation matters in the rohe.

2.5.3 Treaty Settlements and Conservation Board membership

Treaty settlements have resulted in some statutory positions being created in the composition of Board membership in some areas. Where these have been incorporated into the Conservation Act, it provides a guarantee that, in defined areas, member/s of local iwi will be appointed to a Board, to contribute their iwi's perspectives to the Board (but not to represent the iwi, except in the case of Te Hiku o Te Ika Conservation Board).

More information about Board membership and the Board appointment process can be found at section 12.1 of this Manual.

2.6 Other statutory and advisory bodies

Other advisory bodies provide advice to DOC.  Some are statutory bodies whose work has a national reach and influence, such as the New Zealand Fish and Game Council.  Other entities are local or conservation area-specific, such as reserve boards.  Other groups operate as advisory groups, committees and trusts that provide links between communities in conservation areas, and DOC/the Minister.

Other advisory bodies have a range of functions but commonly practice some form of advocacy, provide advice as needed to DOC, liaise with other bodies (such as Conservation Boards) and keep the communities they represent informed about conservation matters that affect them.

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