Nats say leak suggests major Doc shake-up

The Hurunui South Branch in Lake Sumner (Hoka Kura) Forest Park. Photo: DOC
Doc land at the Hurunui South Branch in Lake Sumner (Hoka Kura) Forest Park. Photo: Doc
National leader Judith Collins says she has been leaked documents that recommend the Government undertakes a major shake-up to Department of Conservation (Doc) land.

The Document, which National passed on to media this morning, outlines a number of draft recommendations from the Options Development Group – a body tasked with reviewing conservation policies.

The group has recommended that the Conservation Act be reviewed and replaced with a system that better honours Te Tiriti/ the Treaty of Waitangi.

It also asks that the Government reforms all conservation entities, including Doc, to better reflect Te Tiriti partnerships, and that the Crown revokes its ownership of indigenous species.

Collins has specifically questioned one of the draft recommendations: "[To] provide for the delegation, transfer and devolution of functions and powers within the conservation system to tangata whenua".

She said this would represent a significant shake-up of the entire Doc estate in New Zealand – "That is 85 per cent of the West Coast, for example."

She said she got the Document from someone who was at a recent hui where the Doc discussed how to better reflect the Treaty of Waitangi's principles in its policies.

The Document appears to be part of a draft report and the Acting Minister of Conservation, Ayesha Verrall, has been approached for comment.

According to the development group, there will be a nationwide public consultation before any proposed changes are made Government policies.

But Collins said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern needs to be clear with New Zealanders about what the Government's plans are when it comes to the ownership of conservation land.

"This is another example of the way the Treaty and its principles are being interpreted in ways that we haven't yet discussed as a nation," Collins said this morning.

"These interpretations and the way they are being enacted will have significant impacts on the lives of all New Zealanders, and on our democracy."

The Act party was also not happy with the recommendations; its leader David Seymour said they looked to him like "Foreshore and Seabed 2.0, but inland".

"Our politics is becoming increasingly and uncomfortably race-based. The Government is to blame," he said.

"So many of their policies are explicitly race-based. It's becoming impossible to debate policies without talking about race."

The Options Development Group was set up in September last year, when Doc boss Lou Sanson appointed 12 people to provide "advice and recommendations" on the partial review of conservation policies.

But he said there would be a nationwide public consultation on any proposed changes to the general policies.

He said it was expected the partial reviews of the general policies will be completed by the middle of 2022.

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