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Govt blasted over DOC funding

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 26/05/2016

Green groups and the country's tourism marketing body are all condemning the latest budgetary allocations for the Department of Conservation.

Treasury figures show the vote conservation budget - which covers all conservation spending - for 2015-16 of $472 million reduces to $430m.

However, the government says some of the 2015-16 money will be carried over into the coming year and DOC's budget of $355m will actually increase to $357m.

"There are no budget cuts, in fact DOC's funding has been quite stable," a spokesman for Conservation Minister Maggie Barry said.

But Forest & Bird says Thursday's budget did not deliver the funding the department needs.

"The Department of Conservation already has insufficient funds to do its job," said Forest & Bird's Kevin Hackwell.

He said the $20.7 million for the Battle for Our Birds pest control programme was a stop-gap measure.

"New Zealand's native environment is under immense pressure from rats, possums, and stoats. Battle for our Birds is not currently base-line spending but an emergency top up for periodic crises that affect our forests."

The Green Party says National's funding of DOC has been disgraceful.

DOC has missed out on $368m of funding over eight years that could have been used to protect native species, maintain huts, tracks bridges and viewing platforms, said conservation spokesman Kevin Hague.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa also says it is dismayed at what it says is a significant cut in DOC's budget.

DOC was there to protect New Zealand's natural heritage and facilitate recreation and tourism - so that people could be enriched by outdoor experiences, says chief executive Chris Roberts said.

"Both goals are being severely handicapped by a lack of government funding."

DOC needed a permanent budget that allows it to do its job properly, he said.

"Before we start talking about taxing visitors to fund conservation, we need the government to properly meet its obligations."

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