Where to for conservation?

It is hoped concerns such as competition between community groups and the Department of Conservation for funding will be addressed at a national conference in Dunedin later this year.

Community conservation groups were concerned about Doc's restructuring and its effect, Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust general manager Sue Murray said.

''There is a feeling of unease as there is about anything new .. . and this is a way to address that.''

The trust was organising a conference, Conservation Inc, to be held in Dunedin with the aim of ''exploring'' the changes in conservation and the trend towards ''citizen-initiated'' conservation.

It was planned for the month after the implementation of Doc's new structure in September.

''We don't actually know yet what direct impact the changes will have.''

The conference would be opened by Conservation Minister Nick Smith and Doc's two deputy directors-general, and other senior staff members would be attending, she said.

It would give community groups the chance to talk to them about some of the issues facing conservation.

''I expect it will be robust session.''

One of the issues was the resourcing of conservation work, something Doc could not do without either, Mrs Murray said.

''There is going to be pressure on everybody.''

Doc was looking at increasing partnerships and could possibly be competing with community groups for funding. But what that would mean would not be known until the deputy director-generals outlined their vision for Doc in the future, she said.

''It's an opportunity for community groups to listen to what Doc has to say and then ask about their concerns.''

An issue for the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust was whether the technical advice it relied on Doc for would be available in the future.

The four themes of the conference were whether groups could connect and work together, how to stay viable, how to respond to the biodiversity needs and what was feasible.

There would be sessions on funding from economist and philanthropist Gareth Morgan, a professional fundraiser, and the Otago Community Trust. The local government perspective would also be addressed by representatives from the Otago Regional Council and Christchurch City Council.

Other conservation groups, such as Forest and Bird and WWF, would also attend, and speakers would include New Zealand's Tourism Industry Association chief executive Martin Snedden. The conference will be held on October 17-18.

- rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz

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