Kevin Evans, retiring Chairperson of the Northland Conservation Board, has concerns about the current review of DOC which he said has the potential to set DOC back for years if not well handled and leaving it over to the community to carry out some work.
After 11 years on the board, including 4 years as Chair, Ruawai’s Mr Evans told the September meeting of the board in Kaitaia that the potential loss from Northland of highly skilled, committed and passionate technical experts was a major concern. He said he feared for the future of biodiversity and the retention of key staff.
DOC's Conservator for Northland, Chris Jenkins, made a presentation to Kevin Evans on behalf of the board and DOC to mark his retirement from the board and highlighted his significant contribution.
He said that Mr Evan’s passion for conservation and the environment and biodiversity in particular was never in doubt and his ability to speak out on issues “from the heart” was one of his strengths. His frank and open manner left no one in doubt as to where he was coming from no matter how controversial the issue.
Chris Jenkins acknowledged the comments made by Kevin Evans about DOC's Shared Services Review. He said that the review had a major impact on the Conservation Support Team and the changes being implemented would see a majority of affected current employees offered positions in service centres based in Christchurch, Wellington and Hamilton.
Northland Conservancy Office will change – it will not have a team of technical specialists, but a group of people focussed on community relations and empowering communities and supporting existing groups.
Mr Jenkins said it was correct to see the review as about saving money but it was also about a change of direction for DOC and trying to put life into its "vision”.
The board also thanked outgoing board member Ken Ross (Kerikeri) for his outstanding service.
New members Tracey Andrews-Smith (Kaitaia) and Mita Harris (Bay of Islands) were welcomed to their first meeting by Mr Evans.
The September meeting of the board also heard a report from Piet Nieuwland, Community Relations Officer, Management Planning, on the public submissions to the Conservation Management Strategy review. A total of about 800 submissions had been received for this stage of the review, responding to questions posed by DOC.
Mr Nieuwland reported that the main public themes revised for the Conservation Management Strategy following information gathering this year were:
Public understanding and expectations are changing around recreation use, awareness of the environment and the importance of conservation.
Walking, motorised vehicle, mountain biking, horse riding or aerial access to public conservation land is necessary if people are to enjoy it and value it. There are potential conflicts between some user groups in some locations. Improved access, particularly to the coastal margins is sought.
Protecting and enhancing fresh water quality is a high priority for many communities, who depend on public conservation land as catchment for water supplies.
Pest control techniques
There is widespread support for rodent control to help protect kiwi and other species. The use of 1080 for possum control seems less contentious than previously.
Concerns were expressed about the potential impacts of new energy generation technologies.
Concerns about the impact of more intense housing subdivision, especially in coastal areas, is widespread, along with potential impacts on natural and recreation values, changes in the character of small communities and infrastructure needs. Keeping places the way they are, with little or no development, is a strongly held view.
Vehicles on beaches
Communities are divided on the extent to which motorised vehicle use should be allowed on beaches.
There appears to be a greater understanding of marine management issues than in the past, but how they might be resolved is unclear. More marine reserves are sought.
``If it is about food it is important to me’’. Reductions in the availability and quality of seafood are lamented, especially in communities dependent on supplementary food from the ocean. Pigs are an important food supply in some isolated locations.
All forms of pollution ranging from sewage to plastics to rubbish left by visitors are unacceptable.
Pakeha communities are able to articulate increasing connection to public conservation land through historic records, visitor experiences and participation in restoration activities.
Maori communities continue to assert their role as kaitiaki of public conservation land and their ancestral inter-relationships. This is now well articulated in iwi and hapu resource management plans. Treaty settlements are creating opportunities for better structured and balanced relationships between iwi and DOC.
Communities appreciate the opportunity to participate in and express their views around the future of conservation management in their localities. They want to work more closely with DOC and seek provision of training and youth programmes. Well-run community restoration trusts are strongly supported.
Co-ordination and collaboration of efforts by central government agencies and local and regional government is supported.