by Eugenie Sage
For National, Planet Economy is somewhere distant from Planet Earth. Bill English’s Budget speech didn’t even mention the environment or conservation. National demonstrated once again that it doesn’t understand that a healthy economy depends on a healthy environment.
Instead of investing in biodiversity protection National produced a zero sum budget for our native plants and animals and wild landscapes. The Government cut conservation funding again.
Landcare Research ecologist, John Innes has calculated that 26 million birds (chicks, eggs and females) are killed by predators each year – with stoats, possums, and rats the most destructive.
Most of our native birds are endangered or in decline. Increased conservation funding is urgently needed to prevent the extinction of kokako, mohua/yellowhead, whio, great spotted and brown kiwi and many other species.
DoC’s budget for 2012/13 will be $335 million compared to $338 million in 2011/12. That’s about the same as the Hamilton City Council’s yet DoC manages one third of New Zealand and has extensive marine responsibilities.
Current funding means DoC can carry out pest control on only 1.2 million hectares of the eight million hectares of public land it manages. In 2013/14 it may be even less.
Government’s “efficiency” demand means departments have to meet CPI increases, wage increases and superannuation costs themselves, with no increase in the baseline funding. This has forced DoC to plunder $8.7 million from its Land Acquisition Fund to meet the funding shortfall in the year ahead. That means no new reserves as the Fund was used to purchase areas of coastal and lowland forests and other habitats not well represented in the conservation estate.
The “efficiency cuts” means the Department will also do its work in 2012/13 without the 96 technical specialists, ecologists, planning, legal and other staff whose jobs disappeared in the last round of restructuring to “save” another $2.9 million.
National’s “efficiency” cuts will hit DoC particularly hard in 2013/14. Then the Department will have to cover the $8.7 million shortfall in its baseline by cutting another $2.9 million from natural heritage management and $2 million from recreation management.
It will also have to make further “savings” through a second wave of restructuring now underway. This is targeted at field offices. It’s likely to result in another round of job losses and loss of conservation expertise as dedicated and skilled staff have to leave.
Instead of tax cuts for the well off and billion dollar motorways, Government should prioritise safeguarding the future of our indigenous species. A Green budget would do that.