Doc response considered 'absolutely unacceptable'

A response to a request for more information on the changes made to Otago's conservation management strategy has been labelled as ''absolutely unacceptable'' by Otago Conservation Board member Susan Stevens.

The board developed the initial strategy - a plan for how the places, native plants and animals Doc is responsible for will be managed - which was then revamped by the Department of Conservation before going out for consultation last year.

Former board members criticised the consultation draft as reflecting little of what the board had written in consultation with others and for having been standardised and sanitised.

Remaining board members also questioned the reasoning behind some of the changes, writing to Doc last year with a list of queries.

That letter was compiled in the non-public section of the meeting and a request by the Otago Daily Times for a copy of the letter was turned down; legal reasons being cited as the reason for the refusal.

Doc's planning manager David Newey's reply was tabled at the board's recent meeting in Clyde.

It said Doc could not respond to the board's request because it was still analysing the ''many thousands of submission points'' raised during the consultation process and developing policy responses.

Ms Stevens said the board was not asking for new information but wanted an explanation of the decisions made by Mr Newey's team, such as on what grounds the decisions were made.

''We just want to understand what's there better because we're confused about some things.''

Board chairman Gordon Bailey said after the meeting the board had raised the questions because of the changes made to the document from the one it developed and as the board was required to sign off on the final document before it went to the Conservation Authority.

While the board had not received answers, it was pleasing Doc had offered to hold workshops with boards so planners could explain issues, he said.

''To keep us in the loop is a positive way forward.''

Mr Newey said given the quality and quantity of submissions the department would not be able to meet the Conservation Act timelines for releasing the strategy.

It had been anticipated the revised draft strategy would go to the board in March but it was ''now looking like early June''.

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