The business of conservation

16 Jun 2012

Department of Conservation Director-General Al Morrison and Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright discussed aspects of what business can do for conservation on the third of New Zealand’s land mass that is under DOC’s control at Forest & Bird's Face Up to the Future conference at Te Papa on June 16.

Al said 2005 was a major turning point for DOC when it realised it would be unable to do the conservation work needed, even if its funding was as large as the government’s health budget. Engaging with business and the broader community is one way that the total conservation effort can be increased.

DOC will continue to do its core conservation work within its budget and the aim of engaging with business is to greatly expand conservation, rather than transfer the costs of that core work.

New Zealand has to reassert conservation and our environment in the engine room of the economy and be prepared to think in new ways about how this is to be achieved, he said.

Jan Wright also said it was important that business and conservation should not be seen as necessarily being incompatible. She added she had no problem with DOC’s slogan of “Conservation for Prosperity”.

But it is important that any commercial use of the conservation estate has to be of benefit to conservation and has a positive impact in the long term.

Meridian Energy’s recent decision to abandon its plans to dam the Mokihinui River on the West Coast was a good one because any benefits from the company’s offer to do pest control to offset the ecological damage caused by the dam were inadequate, she said.

But if there was, as a hypothetical example, an offer to do pest control control work over the entire South Island in return for allowing a dam on the Mokihinui, she for one would think it a good deal for conservation .

Jan Wright has an ongoing inquiry into commercial exploitation of the conservation estate and the report should be out  by this time next year, she said.