There is serious concern in conservation circles that the Department of Conservation is losing its way and allowing conservation values – even in national parks – to be subsidiary to catering for tourists and other visitors, to allowing for commercial activities such as mining on conservation land, and for safety measures to take precedence over natural values.
Conservation boards, the NZ Conservation Authority, ecologists, Federated Mountain Clubs, ECO, Coromandel Watchdog of Hauraki, and a host of others are aghast at decisions made by DoC staff to allow activities that severely compromise the very natural values that DoC was established to protect.
The push during the Key Government years for DoC to promote tourism and economic growth seems to have led some staff to see those as their mission rather than their obligations under the Conservation Act, the National Parks Act and the Reserves Act and other conservation legislation.
These issues have arisen in relation to the construction of damaging cycle ways in sensitive areas (the Ghost Road to the West Coast), the felling of 200 or so native trees in Arthur’s Pass, proposals for a cycle way in Tongariro National Park, and the granting of access permits for exploration and mining, as well as excessive permits for recreational hunting and helicopter flying in National Parks.
Farah Hancock Reports in Newsroom, that in the two years from the late 2017 announcement of the government’s “no new mines on conservation land” in fact 21 mining applications were approved by DoC, of which 14 were new mining applications.