Changes needed at DoC

Those deeply concerned about predators are actively looking for alternatives.

The recent idiotic threat against Fonterra by some anti-1080 nutter has brought the focus back on how we manage our conservation estate.

It is all under the ownership of the Department of Conservation (DoC), making it the largest landowner in the country, with the biggest chunk of the national balance sheet (which should worry those of you who really think a balance sheet is a sign of your wealth).

First, DoC makes a poor job of explaining the predator risk and the realistic options to control it. This allows myth and ill-informed opinion to dominate any debate; 1080 is a blunt instrument but it seems to be the best of what is on offer.

Those deeply concerned about predators are actively looking for alternatives from automatically re-setting traps to various more complicated but promising interventions.

DoC’s management system doesn’t help. There is no widely accepted internal view of its purpose. A lot of field staff are well-intentioned zealots but their fervour has not been harnessed and given a corporate direction.

Work practices are hopelessly inefficient and any manager daring to be progressive gets sidelined in increasingly mad restructuring exercises (for example, Northland is managed from Hamilton!).

Private enterprise benefactors are available to help but find the internal culture of DoC a big disincentive.

The government goes on about governance and has far too many boards and committees for industries such as electricity that would be better without. Yet DoC screams out for a board of experienced business people.

Just a simple decision to charge for access to Doc land would be a good start to making the organisation properly value its assets. All other countries charge for access. A day on the Tongariro Crossing costs nothing but those using it spend hundreds of dollars getting there, staying, eating and being guided.

Another $20 wouldn’t put them off. Councils provide roads and services to DoC, which pays no rates. Far too many individual titles are managed poorly. Amalgamation and resistance to receiving small titles from well-intentioned estates would all help. DoC does charge for some things, such as its excellent camping grounds.

If the government finds it too embarrassing to charge, then appoint a board and it will make the decision.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry seems keen to reverse some of her colleagues’ dumb moves such as removing tree protection. So get bold, Maggie, to lift DoC out of the embarrassment side of government into a positive.

Lots of the field staff would love it and if some of the mid-level drones get found out, then well and good.

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