Learn about DOC’s role in the protection of New Zealand's freshwater ecosystems.

Many groups have formal roles or responsibilities in managing different elements of freshwater ecosystems and species in New Zealand.

DOC’s role in freshwater protection is twofold — to seek conservation outcomes for significant freshwater ecosystems outside the protected area network through advocacy, and to actively manage freshwater sites within the protected area network.

In contrast to land based ecosystems, few entire freshwater catchments are protected and/or managed by the department. As a result DOC relies heavily on advocacy and work with local communities.

Statutory responsibilities for freshwater conservation

The department’s statutory responsibilities for freshwater conservation are set out in Section 6 of the Conservation Act 1987. They include responsibility to:

  • Manage land and other natural and historic resources held under the Conservation Act 1987 for conservation purposes;
  • Preserve (as is practicable) all indigenous freshwater fisheries and protect recreational freshwater fisheries and freshwater fish habitats;
  • Advocate the conservation of natural resources;
  • Promote the benefits of natural resource conservation to present and future generations;
  • Prepare, provide, disseminate, and publicise educational and promotional material relating to conservation; and
  • Provide advice to the Minister of Conservation.

Section 53 of the Conservation Act 1987 provides the Director-General of Conservation with all powers and responsibilities that are reasonably necessary to enable the department to perform its functions. Sections 53(2) and 53(3) provide that the Director-General shall:

  • advocate the conservation of aquatic life and freshwater fisheries generally;
    manage the Taupo Fishery (via Fish & Game Council powers);
  • acquire by means of purchase or otherwise and protect habitats; and may
    undertake or commission surveys, investigations and inventories (including sections 53(3)(a) and (b) which specifically provide for research and development work on freshwater fishery resources);
  • prepare management, conservation and control plans for the management of natural resources;
  • prepare plans and publications relating to freshwater fish;
  • control any introduced species causing damage to any indigenous species or habitats.

The department also administers the Wildlife Act 1953 and the Reserves Act 1977, the latter of which provides for the Minister and the department to:

  • Preserve and manage areas of New Zealand with appropriate values (as defined in the Reserves Act 1977) for the benefit and enjoyment of the public
  • Ensure the survival or preservation of: rare and common indigenous species in their natural environments; a representative range of all classes of natural ecosystems and landscapes.
  • Foster and promote the preservation of the natural character of the coastal environment and the margins of lakes and rivers, and preserve public access to the coast, offshore islands, lakeshores and riverbanks.

The lists below summarise the department’s freshwater conservation management functions:

  • Protect freshwater natural heritage
  • Protecting nationally important freshwater ecosystems and sites
  • Safeguarding the natural ecological character of freshwater ecosystems and habitats
  • Protecting freshwater species and stocks
  • Managing alien invasives
  • Provide for recreational use of freshwater ecosystems and species
  • Providing access and recreational facilities, subject to protection of freshwater values
  • Harvest and stock management.
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