9 Jul 2013

DoC 'dead in the water' after cuts, restructurings

7:45 am on 9 July 2013

An outgoing conservation board chairperson says the Department of Conservation's cuts and restructurings have left the department dead in the water.

The comments come as DoC's 11 regional conservancies are being merged into six, and the department is on a drive for business partnerships. The Government is also requiring another $18 million of savings over the next four years.

Stepping down after two years chairing the Otago Conservation Board, Abby Smith says she is now free to tell the country how bad things at DoC really are. She says it once led the world in conservation, but it has been undermined and underresourced and can no longer do that.

Her criticisms are shared by at least two other retiring Otago board members.

The Government says DoC is unsettled but heading in the right direction. Conservation Minister Nick Smith says he knows that the reforms, and the search for a new director-general, are unsettling but the changes are DoC's first substantive restructuring since it was formed 25 years ago.

Dr Smith says he is perfectly confident that once the restructuring is done, the department will move on with real momentum.