Funds to protect and enhance Otago's treasured and threatened
species have so far remained steady despite cuts to the
Department of Conservation's funding.
However, Otago staff are not confident it will remain that
way in coming years.
Doc Wanaka area manager Paul Hellebreker, speaking while
acting Otago Conservator, said from the early 2000s to 2008,
Doc in Otago experienced significant increases in its budget
but from then the budget plateaued.
''In the past year, in my experience, there have been cuts.''
Figures that would show the most recent funding constraints
would not be available until later this year. Additionally,
Doc staff had been told they could face another round of cuts
with a restructuring proposal in March. Overall funding for
species had dropped $74,000 from $1.127 million in 2006 to
$1.052 million last year, although funding for key programmes
for the Taiaroa Head albatross, Otago and grand skinks,
yellow-eyed penguins and freshwater fish had all increased.
Business accountant Ralph Popplewell said the drop reflected
the end of Operation Ark, in which the Otago conservancy
received one-off funding in 2006 to help protect mohua in the
What the figures did not show was many of the cuts to Doc
funding had been in the ''indirect costs'' such as back
office functions so funding of biodiversity projects could be
Community support manager Ken Stewart said overall funding
for Otago biodiversity projects had remained similar in
recent years, with increases in the freshwater fish and skink
projects due to the importance of those species.
In the past six years, funding for the freshwater fish
programme had increased from $224,800 to $307,000 while the
Otago and Grand skinks had gone from $435,300 to $467,900.
Doc needed the support of the community to help it achieve
conservation goals, he said.
Tenure review had meant the area Doc Otago looked after had
increased by 55,000ha since 2006, so in turn had budgets for
plant and animal pests from $1.4 million to $2.1 million and
tracks management from $882,000 to $1.1 million.
Otago received $2.28 million from concessions (businesses
operating on Doc land) up from $2.1 million six years before,
and $19,000 in sponsorships.
Staff numbers had increased from 102 to 143 although many
positions had been changed and some people were now working
with a national, rather than local focus, he said.
Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust general manager Sue Murray said
there was no doubt non-governmental agencies such as the
trust were playing an increasing role in providing
conservation effort, and they struggled for funds.
The trust, Doc and other agencies collaborated to work on the
conservation of yellow-eyed penguins which involved sharing a
range of resources such as staff time, volunteer programmes,
penguin expertise, emergency response, advocacy and
''It is difficult to put a monetary value to these.''