A new emphasis on recreation within conservation boards
is a concern, former Otago board chairman Emeritus Prof Alan
Conservation Minister Nick Smith ordered a review of
conservation boards after Doc's restructure earlier this
The Otago area was split and absorbed into new regions south
Conservation Parliamentary private secretary Nicky Wagner
released the review's report this month, confirming that
instead of aligning the 13 boards to the new six Doc regions,
there would be 14 boards in the future, although their work
would be aligned to Doc's new partnership approach.
''The review recommends that conservation boards be more
representative of the communities they serve, with a greater
focus on recreation. We will be taking this into account with
the new appointments to be made early next year.''
The review also recommended the way conservation boards
interacted with Doc needed to be enhanced, and an annual
letter of expectation, reporting framework and code of
practice to be brought in.
''We also see potential for efficiency gains from having
three, rather than 14 conservation management strategies and
a limited number of conservation management plans.''
While the report recommended individual national park
management plans should also be retained, it suggested there
should only be three conservation management strategies (CMS)
instead of 14.
Prof Mark said the legislation under which conservation
boards were formed was ''pretty clear'' their prime role and
focus was conservation and the management or oversight of the
In his experience, the Federated Mountain Clubs were always
allowed representation on the boards anyway, he said.
The changes to the board's role were ''symptomatic'' of the
trend in conservation management at a political level.
It appeared to be moving towards reducing the status of
conservation values in favour of increasing the status of
recreation and tourism, Prof Mark said.
While recreation and tourism had always been considered in
conservation management, they were subservient to
However, it was pleasing the Otago Conservation Board was to
be retained, as it was something most submitters agreed upon.
Federated Mountain Clubs president Robin McNeill said the
organisation was cheered by the report, as trampers and
mountaineers had been growing increasingly alarmed by how
alienated the boards had become.
''This report describes a very positive path that will not
only fix that problem, but make boards a whole lot more
relevant and useful for everyone.''
Former Otago board chairwoman Associate Prof Abby Smith said
she was pleased the importance of local representation was
recognised, but was doubtful three CMS documents would ensure
adequate care and stewardship of conservation land.
''Will a single document be able to provide priorities and
guidance to managers from places as diverse as Nelson, Otago,
and the Subantarctic Islands?''
She served for nine years on a ''highly effective''
conservation board that worked extremely well with Doc, was
able to achieve important advances in conservation of
regional biodiversity, provide access to local recreational
groups across the spectrum, and develop relationships with
the Otago community, she said.
''We did this because board members knew every nook and
cranny of Otago, and were able to advocate from that position
of passionate knowledge and affection. Proposals for change
must not lose this local connection, this passionate
Green Party conservation spokeswoman Eugenie Sage said the
tampering weakened boards' independence and Doc's
''This is a watering down of conservation management planning
which could lead to weaker controls on high impact commercial
tourism and mining activities on conservation land.''
Scrapping regionally focused CMS and having just three
high-level strategies (for the North and South Islands and
outlying islands) would make Doc and the boards less
connected with the wild places, landscapes and species which
the department was responsible for managing, she said.
''It wastes the huge investment of time and energy which
boards and the community have spent developing
conservancy-based conservation management strategies.''
The Government deferred the appointment of new conservation
boards this year while this review was undertaken but was now
advertising for members. The new boards will be in place by