Read the NZCA's advice to the Minister on statutory management planning advice.

To: Hon Dr Nick Smith, Minister of Conservation
Date: 16 April 2013

When we met in February, you asked the NZCA for advice on management planning. We discussed this matter at our meeting last week and this letter conveys our advice to you.

The NZCA considers that open, participative planning is essential for the effective and coordinated management of public conservation lands and other resources. The management planning process is the primary way in which New Zealanders have a say in how their public lands are managed.

Management planning for public conservation lands performs multiple purposes. The NZCA identifies the following as fundamental principles that underpin an effective management planning process:

  • Good faith – to achieve the confidence of all parties in the process
  • Public input – encompassing the full spectrum of interests, using an open process
  • Partnership ethic between conservation boards and the Department – in the development of a management planning document
  • Clear and enduring policy – to achieve fair and consistent treatment
  • Sufficient detail – to provide guidance to decision-makers
  • Clear criteria – to determine when a partial or mid-term review should be undertaken
  • Clear and concise documents – to increase certainty and enhance efficiency.

In addition, sufficient resources are necessary to ensure momentum is maintained once a process is begun and to enable periodic review of plans to keep them fit for purpose.

Management plans and strategies identify how the Department will management public conservation lands. They are, in essence, a social contract or, to use the Department’s phrase, “a handshake with the community”. Having developed them in consultation with the community, the public expects the Department to implement and uphold them.

The planning process is itself important, as well as the resultant plan. On the Whanganui River, the Authority saw at first-hand the catalytic effect of the management planning process as a vehicle to enable the Department and the community (in this case, Whanganui iwi) to engage. It was the ‘glue’, or the reason to talk, with the result that long-held differences were worked through and ironed out. All parties commented on this to the Authority.

The NZCA is pleased that the Department has recently decided to increase capacity for management planning, as this will enable more timely management plans and the development of process efficiencies. An example is the development of a template for use in national park management plan reviews, similar to that adopted for the conservation management strategies.

A number of improvements have been put in place in recent years. The NZCA is confident that these will result in more concise and enduring documents which set bottom lines but still provide responsiveness to new initiatives.

These include:

  • A focus in the newly developed conservation management strategies on what the Department wants to achieve, rather than how it will achieve it.
  • Setting out the Department’s priorities for its own work and for working with others.
  • Describing values (which should remain relatively stable), followed by outcomes relating to their protection, use or enjoyment.
  • Proposals that will be tested against the outcomes. If they are consistent they canProceed; if they don’t there is very likely somewhere else, not far away, where they could be accommodated.

All “places” are not created equal. The use of different management and use regimes, reflecting the values at different places, is entirely reasonable. The Department should not be shy about saying “not here, but this alternative might work for you”. There is a great diversity of opportunities for specific interests to be accommodated within the public conservation land spectrum, without eroding values and displacing others.

Because management planning is fundamental to the NZCA and conservation board functions, and because of the public interest in the Department’s discharge of this responsibility, NZCA would like to work closely with you and the Department as you refine the options for improvements in the management planning arena.

Yours sincerely

Dr Kay Booth

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