Smaller funding cuts a sign Government is listening

Forest & Bird says today’s pre-budget announcement that the ongoing funding cuts to the Department of Conservation won’t be as deep as planned is a positive sign.

But the independent conservation organisation warns that DOC’s annual budget will still be millions of dollars less than it should be.

“The community, the tourism industry, and DOC’s staff have been telling the government for four weeks now that the proposed cuts to frontline staff would severely undermine DOC’s work, that is crucial to New Zealand’s clean green brand,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell. 

“It is a good thing that the Minister of Conservation has finally acknowledged that. 

“But while Nick Smith has acknowledged how vital DOC is, his government’s refusal to resource the department properly will still result in future job cuts. For instance, under the government’s revised scheme of funding cuts, DOC will still have to cut a further $18 million over the next four years,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“The latest round of 140 job cuts, announced in March, touched a real nerve with New Zealanders, as we saw through the widespread support for Forest & Bird’s “Love DOC” campaign. 

“While today’s announcement is a step in the right direction, it still looks like 80 frontline staff will lose their jobs. For the 60 who now won’t lose their jobs, they will be operating in an even less well-resourced department than they are now,” Kevin Hackwell says.

Prior to the job cuts announced in March, DOC was operating with ten per cent fewer staff than it was in 2008.

“We’re disappointed that the minister is still trying to create the impression that frontline roles will not be cut. But that’s not the reality of how the department works. Project managers are frontline team leaders who regularly get into the field.” 

“The legacy of this Government’s actions will be felt for a long time. I only hope that does not include a disaster similar to Cave Creek, in terms of health and safety, or perhaps the loss of an endangered species,” Kevin Hackwell says.