If the Department of Conservation stopped fighting farmers and councils and concentrated on their own estates they could save millions overnight and reduce their overspending substantially, said president of Federated Farmers Charlie Pedersen.
Mr Pedersen’s comments come after DoC director-general Al Morrison told Radio New Zealand today that he was expecting average losses of $8 million annually for the next three years.
DoC has a legislative advocacy role under the Conservation Act. According to the department’s 2007 annual report DoC spent $5.159 million on RMA advocacy and coastal planning.
“This advocacy power allows the minister and DoC to ride roughshod over the interests of individuals and the community, said Mr Pedersen.
“There are plenty of advocates for the environment already – disestablishing taxpayer funded advocacy within the Resource Management Act will save both DoC and farmers money.
“It is acknowledged widely that DoC does a great job with conservation management and tourism facilitation on conservation estates but Federated Farmers has always said DoC is overstepping the mark when it comes to advocacy on private land.
“We have said before it is time DoC was hauled in for wasting time and resources and with this expectation of a multi-million overspend looming it is the perfect opportunity for action,” said Mr Pedersen.
“Farmers care about the environment and sustainability and they are happy to work in partnership to manage areas of high conservation value but increasingly they are frustrated by DoC’s involvement in planning processes and resource consent applications.
“DoC, through the courts, forces farmers and councils into setting aside large areas of private land for conservation, landscape and heritage reasons. Farmers are expected to wear the costs of this public benefit without compensation. The aggressive practice farmers see from DoC and the attitude, that DoC know best, is antagonising.
“Federated Farmers as always is willing to engage with DoC to develop better relationships with farmers in the future. Federated Farmers calls on the Minister of Conservation to join with his colleague the Minister for the Environment and undertake an urgent review of the RMA and DoC’s role within it,” Mr Pedersen said.
Federated Farmers has put together a six-pack of changes to the RMA that includes removing tax payer funded advocacy. See more about the Federation's RMA six-pack.