DOC focused on forging new relationships with private sector

Wayne Brown seems to have a view that my department is stuck in some “Fortress DOC' view of the world.

Wayne Brown’s recent NBR column made some interesting references to Department of Conservation’s culture and our readiness to engage effectively with business and other external organisations.

He seems to have a view that my department is stuck in some “Fortress DOC’ view of the world, with a structure and management teams that actively work to discourage staff from getting involved with outside groups.

In actual fact, I can assure Wayne that DOC’s new strategy and approach is firmly focused on achieving the exact opposite. DOC staff are now clearly charged with working more effectively with external partners. We are doing this so we can build the overall effort targeted at conservation.

This deliberate realignment was started by my predecessor and grew out of the realisation that more and more groups across New Zealand want to get involved in looking after our nature – the special places and the wildlife that makes New Zealand unique.

That is the reason why DOC has developed its new Partnerships division and I am strongly committed to continuing with the culture change needed to forge even stronger relationships between external organisations and DOC.

A good example of the benefits of this approach can be seen in the pest control work which Wayne himself referred to. Introduced predators like stoats and possums not only kill millions of native birds each year, they also pose a huge threat to our diary and cattle herds through the bovine tuberculosis they carry. 

As a result DOC now works closely with TBfree New Zealand to co-ordinate our 1080 operations to ensure the best return from our combined pest control programmes.

We are also working alongside the dairy industry on long term solutions to our shared pest control issues. In March, DOC joined forces with the NEXT Foundation, Gareth and Sam Morgan, and five dairy companies to co-fund a multi-million dollar 10 year initiative looking at new ways to eradicate rats, stoats and possums from large parts of mainland New Zealand.

Far from shutting the door to private enterprise, DOC is actively looking for private sector partners who want to get involved with our work. We have formed a Commercial Partnerships Unit to develop this potential and we are already seeing significant returns for conservation. 

In the past few years DOC has forged innovative public-private partnerships with host of leading businesses, including companies such as Air New Zealand, Fonterra, Genesis Energy, Mitre 10 and Dulux.

These businesses alone have committed more than $30 million dollars to projects that involve restoring threatened wetlands, protecting vulnerable birds, monitoring marine reserves and rejuvenating our network of huts and premium walking tracks.

Our Whio Forever programme with Genesis Energy has doubled the number of safe breeding sites for our unique threatened blue duck and our Great Walks partnership with Air New Zealand has seen visitor numbers jump by about 20 percent in two years. 

I fully acknowledge that the old mentality of “DOC knows best” is not going to cut it in the 21st century. But the sorts of initiatives identified above show that DOC can do business with the private sector, and does it well. 

DOC is moving ahead and we’re happy to work with any forward thinking private sector partner who is ready to roll up their sleeves and join us in looking after New Zealand’s nature.

Lou Sanson is the Department of Conservation's director general

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