New focus for Otago Conservation Board, Doc says

Maintaining the ability to give ''frank and independent'' advice as well as work in partnership with the Department of Conservation will be a challenge for Otago's new conservation board, department partnerships manager Barry Hanson says.

He was speaking at the first public meeting of the newly formed Otago Conservation Board in Dunedin yesterday.

The nine-member board is the link between the community and the Department of Conservation and will advise on the region's strategic direction.

After a government review last year of the boards' role, they now had a greater focus on promoting recreation opportunities and tourism on conservation land, and enhancing relationships with iwi, Mr Hanson said.

While the board had traditionally focused on decision-making and policy, it also now had a role in developing partnerships, he said.

The department itself was working hard on developing its partnership approach to help it achieve its goal of ''flatlining'' decreases in biodiversity and recovery of species.

''There is only one third of the resource in Vote Conservation [Doc's budget] to do that work.''

The board and department needed to build a new ''construct'' on how they related together without the relationship deteriorating as it sometimes had in the past.

''It's going to be an interesting challenge. It is new territory.''

Part of the new role for boards was their involvement in providing funding advice for the Community Conservation Partnership Fund. Results of that process would not be known until August.

Mr Hanson also aimed to have regular meetings between himself and the board chairmen from Otago, Southland and Canterbury to discuss issues in common and share knowledge such as that gained from Otago's unique scientific advisory board.

''My goal is to form much stronger regional contacts. Working regionally is a big opportunity for us.''

Board chairman Pat Garden said he wanted to reassure the department the board was ''absolutely committed'' to the partnerships approach.

''That is the exciting part.''

The New Zealand Conservation Board has appointed Dunedin's David Barnes, its Federated Mountain Clubs representative, as its representative on the Otago Conservation Board.

- rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz

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