Forest & Bird reveals extent of DOC underfunding ahead of tomorrow’s Budget

Ahead of tomorrow’s Budget, Forest & Bird has calculated that in real terms, the budget for biodiversity protection last year was $30 million down compared to when National came into government.

Adjusting for inflation, the budget for DOC’s natural heritage work has declined from $193 million in 2008/09, to $163 million in 2016/17.

“As these numbers show, there has been consistent underfunding of biodiversity protection under the current Government. We’re hoping that tomorrow’s Budget will turn that situation around,” says Kevin Hackwell, Forest & Bird’s Chief Conservation Adviser.

“Our natural environment is in crisis. We have 3000 native species at risk of extinction. According to the Government's new Threatened Species Strategy, DOC hopes to be actively managing just one in five of those species by 2030.”

“But there has been no new money announced for the core day-to-day work of protecting our native species,” says Mr Hackwell.

Forest & Bird have also calculated what DOC actually spent on its core biodiversity work over that eight year period, revealing that there has been a huge $127 million funding gap.

“This is why we’ve seen multiple restructurings and the loss of significant numbers of frontline staff. It also explains why there is a real lack of ambition when it comes to the Government’s proposals for saving our threatened species.”

“Forest & Bird wants to see a doubling of DOC’s natural heritage budget over the next four years – from $163 million per year to $330 million per year.“

“New Zealand’s public conservation estate covers one third of our land mass and a good chunk of our territorial seas, is home to some of the world’s most remarkable animals and plants, is the source of most of our swimmable rivers and lakes, and is the key infrastructure for our tourism industry and the basis of our international brand.”

“It’s absurd that as a country we spend so little on protecting those things.”

“The Government has a $1.5 billion surplus. Let’s spend just a portion of that on turning around the crisis facing our unique native animals and plants,” says Mr Hackwell.

Click here to view a table with analysis of both Natural Heritage and total ‘Vote Conservation’ funding over the last 8 years. Both are analysed in terms of Budget appropriations (anticipated spend) and actual spend.

Notes for journalists

  • Natural Heritage (around 50%) and Recreational Opportunities (around 40%) are the biggest portions of the total Departmental output spending within ‘Vote Conservation’.
  • Natural Heritage funding in real terms has been calculated using the Reserve Bank’s inflation calculator to adjust previous years to 2017 dollars.
  • The ‘funding gap’ of $127 million for managing natural heritage has been calculated by adding up the difference between what was actually spent on natural heritage management in 2008 / 09 (in 2017 dollars) and the actual spend on natural heritage over the following seven years.
  • Tomorrow’s Budget announcement for DOC will be inflated by the one-off ‘Battle for Our Birds’ pest control fund of $21.3 million. It is important to note that this is not baseline funding.
  • Forest & Bird has previously welcomed new money for infrastructure to address the impacts of the uncontrolled tourism boom, and the ‘Battle for our Birds’ funding for the upcoming beech mast year.