Our Director-General Lou Sanson talks about the World Protected Areas Leaders Forum, Greg Lind’s retirement, the GNS – DOC Relationship Agreement, the Nelson fires and the national planning award DOC won recently.

Date:  14 May 2019

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World Protected Areas – Leaders Forum, Melbourne

In March, Bruce Parkes (DOC’s Deputy Director-General Policy and Visitors), Kay Booth (DOC’s Deputy Director-General Partnerships), Steve Taylor (DOC’s Director Heritage and Visitors) and I attended the third World Protected Areas Leaders Forum in Melbourne since New Zealand led its re-creation in 2017. Thirty-five CEOs, Deputy CEOs and Directors attended from 13 countries (Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Europe, Scandinavia, China, Israel, Korea and Canada). This year’s focus was on “over-tourism” with case-studies presented by each country.

In many ways New Zealand led the way with the recent adoption of a National Visitor Strategy, differential fees and the International Visitor Levy contributing directly to conservation (with the levy expected to contribute approximately $40 million per year to conservation).

Canada and Finland demonstrated how powerful the park ranger brand is to their countries experience of adding value for visitors through having their rangers telling stories about conservation, biodiversity restoration and indigenous peoples. This is something we are actively pursuing as part of our new Recreation-Tourism $76 million investment by Government.

An international parks benchmarking of 20 countries was presented. Highlights for DOC were:

  • We have one of the most efficient organisational design structures (only 6 tiers versus 8 – 10 in some countries).
  • New Zealand continues to face sustained rates of international visitor growth.

Darlene Upton, Bruce Parkes and Maria Stevens.
Darlene Upton (Deputy CE Biodiversity, Parks Canada), Bruce Parkes (DD-G Policy and Visitors, DOC) and Maria Stevens (Deputy CE Visitor Experiences, Parks Canada) at the World Protected Areas Leaders Forum in Melbourne
Image: DOC

Greg Lind, DOC’s Te Anau Operations Manager, retires

I was pleased to join 200 staff and friends at Greg Lind’s retirement function in Te Anau on 30 March. I had worked with Greg since 1984 in helping create the Catlins Rainforest Park and then we both helped establish DOC in 1987. Jointly we led the establishment of Rakiura National Park and Greg went on to lead a number of substantial projects for DOC including:

  • Predator Free Ulva Island
  • Ulva Island Marine Reserve
  • Mason’s Bay Dune Restoration programme
  • Rakiura Great Walk (now 11,500 walkers contributing over $5 million to Stewart Island)

For the past 10 years he had held management positions in Invercargill, Queenstown and Te Anau. He leaves a huge legacy after 47 years of conservation work.

Greg Lind and Lou Sanson, Milford Track.
Greg Lind and Lou Sanson, Milford Track, December 2018
Image: DOC

GNS Science – DOC Relationship Agreement

Recently Ken Hughey (DOC’s Chief Science Advisor) and I signed a joint Relationship Agreement with GNS Science for closer collaboration with DOC. This is particularly important as DOC becomes a critical user of GNS science, with increasing climate change and geological hazard risk management required for many of New Zealand’s recreational and tourism facilities (Milford Track, Fox and Franz Josef glacier access, Cape Kidnappers and the Abel Tasman Great Walk). We also came close to losing one species (Whitakers skink) during Cyclone Gita in 2018 when half its habitat was wiped out by storm surges. GNS and DOC also jointly operate one of the best volcanic early warning systems in the world on Mount Ruapehu.

The Relationship Agreement will help build closer links between the two organisations and a better understanding of joint needs and opportunities.  Two examples are joint development of priority funding bids to MBIE, and development of a comparative natural hazard and associated risk assessment framework and management tool. 

Signing GNS relationship agreement.
Ian Simpson, GNS Science Chief Executive and Lou Sanson, DOC Director-General, signing the Relationship Agreement
Image: DOC

Nelson fires

With DOC’s involvement in the Nelson fire now officially over - the fire started on 5 February 2019, with management handed back to Nelson Forests on 29 March – I’d like to thank all our DOC people involved.

It was resource intensive, and at its height there were 23 helicopters, 2 fixed wings and 3 drones involved.

All up, DOC had 76 firefighters plus 12 Hotshots from the USA (who we were hosting at the time), 24 Incident Management Team staff and the DOC National Fire Team. Great effort everyone, Nelson thanks you – as we all do.

DOC firefighters putting out Pigeon Valley fire.
DOC firefighters knocking down another flareup on the Pigeon Valley fire, ash, smoke and steam everywhere!
Image: Brent Hartshorne | DOC

DOC wins national planning award

Congratulations to Sarah Hucker (Senior National Resource Management Act Advisor) and the rest of DOC’s Planning Permissions and Land team for winning the prestigious NZPI Best Practice Award – District and Regional Planning. The win was for work done for the Minister of Conservation’s ‘Regional Coastal Plan: Kermadec and Subantarctic Islands’. After several years of persistent effort, the team deserves this recognition for the innovative approach to managing complex risks for these internationally special places.

For context, the Plan is prepared under the Resource Management Act and covers the coastal marine area (territorial seas) of the Kermadec and Subantarctic Islands - two remote groups of islands home to significant natural features and abundant unique flora and fauna. The entire coastal marine area of both groups of islands is of outstanding natural character. The Plan hangs on protecting this unique natural character while allowing for appropriate access.  

The key marine coastal threats to the islands are biosecurity, oil spills, and navigation incidents. This Plan process has won the award based on its preventative approach to manage these risks, which has achieved a few firsts in New Zealand planning, including:

  • Surface water access restrictions using vessel length as a proxy for risk profile
  • Prohibiting the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil
  • A high threshold of hull cleanliness for all vessels.

This work has obtained international recognition with an international marine body wanting to look at applying it elsewhere. This part of our RMA work often goes unnoticed, so it is wonderful it has been recognised by the professional body that a number of us work within.

Key people involved throughout the almost decade-long process include: Sarah Hucker, Senior Planner for DOC; Graeme Inglis and Serena Cox of NIWA; Jim Dilley, Harbour Master of Environment Canterbury; several lawyers over that time; and a number of technical experts from both within DOC and external.

Sarah Hucker receiving the NZPI Best Practice Award.
Sarah Hucker receiving the NZPI Best Practice Award – District and Regional Planning from Karyn Sinclair (Chair of the New Zealand Planning Institute)
Image: DOC

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