New approach taking time to bed in

An admission the Department of Conservation had ''not been on its game'' for some time did not surprise Otago's Fish and Game Council.

The council received a briefing at its meeting this week from Doc's Eastern and Southern South Island conservation partnerships director Barry Hanson on the changes in the department since its restructure last year.

Mr Hanson said the change to a more ''marketing'' approach to conservation was taking time to bed in and it would probably take another year for the department to be at full strength.

''I acknowledge we have not been on the game for a period of time.

"We'll get there but it will be a few months until we're operating in an ideal fashion.''

When it was, Fish and Game would see Doc consulting more and looking at new ways of achieving conservation outcomes, such as covenants, rather than taking on more land through tenure review, he said.

As part of that approach, Doc had formed a team of both field and partnerships staff to work on issues around Otago's expiring mining permits for water takes.

Fish and Game councillor John Barlow, of Wanaka, said while Doc staff in his area were excellent, there was a lack of co-ordination of volunteer efforts.

''You haven't quite got it sorted.''

There were also concerns covenants were not the best way to protect land, given some farmers allowed stock into protected areas or did not look after it, he said.

Councillors also expressed concerns about Doc's perceived lack of action over protecting the environment.

Mr Hanson said it was in the department's statement of intent that part of its role was to support economic development as well as the environment.

Fish and Game needed to realise that while it and Doc were well aligned over many issues, there would be others where they were not, so that needed to be respected.

Fish and Game Otago chief executive Niall Watson said it was hoped the relationship could be strengthened further.

Work had begun on a memorandum of understanding between both organisations, he said.

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