To: Hon Eugenie Sage, Minister of Conservation
Date: 24 October 2019
I am writing to convey some concerns that the New Zealand Conservation Authority members expressed at their most recent meeting on 7 and 8 October 2019, on a range of issues, including: the availability of support to community projects; further issues around whitebait; and the need for increased funding for the QEII National Trust.
During the fieldtrip to Pirongia Forest Park, it was highlighted to the Authority of the importance of community programmes to conservation in New Zealand. This was reaffirmed during a presentation at the meeting from Poto Davies and Don Scarlet, co-chairs of the Maungatautari Sanctuary.
The NZCA value the work of these volunteer groups and recognise the efforts and dedication they put into their custodianship of the land. These community groups are an embodiment of the DOC philosophy “healthy people in nature” and their passion provides opportunity to achieve gains in biodiversity, and ‘Predator Free 2050’, that might otherwise be lacking at an on-the-ground level.
The Authority are concerned that adequate support for community projects is not being provided. This support may not necessarily need to be in the form of budget, but could be considered in an increase of resources, such as administrative support, training, tools, or incentives. We encourage DOC to give more consideration to these groups in the allocation of Budget 2020.
In his report at the latest NZCA meeting, D-G Lou Sanson reported on the issue of whitebait, noting that discussion will need to be held in Cabinet about the potential for introducing a commercial licence and river-bans. The Authority are concerned that this still remains a contentious issue and is fast becoming a political issue at a national level.
The Authority is concerned that you, as Minister of Conservation, are spared from negative media, and we would urge DOC to recognise the importance of the need for public reassurance to recreational fishers.
QEII National Trust
The Authority last wrote to you in November 2018 regarding their view on the value of the QEII National Trust. At the August 2019 NZCA meeting, QEII National Trust Chair, James Guild, and incoming CEO, Dan Coup, were present to discuss the work of the Trust with the Authority.
It was highlighted that an increase in funding would be required for the Trust to maintain the good work they do with private landowners, and ensure that all 4600 covenants, totalling 180,000 hectares, can be monitored on a two-yearly basis and defended in court if and when any challenges arise.
The NZCA recognises the importance that existing and future QEII Covenants have in maintaining and enhancing New Zealand’s biodiversity, given that they are on private land, as well as the potential role that such covenanted areas could have in supporting the achievement of ‘Predator Free 2050’. There will be significant lost opportunities if potentially suitable areas of private land cannot be covenanted due to lack of resources.
The Authority finds the work of the Trust to be integral in the current environment of climate change and biodiversity loss. Once again, the NZCA strongly recommends that DOC continues to support the QEII National Trust in its important work, increasing funding as the number of covenants continues to grow.
E noho ora mai
Edward Ellison ONZM