When the conservation shoe-string snaps…
New Zealand has more than 3,000 native species heading toward extinction, yet the budget for the government agency tasked with protecting them has been stripped.
The most recent 2017/18 budget is providing $12 million less, in real terms, for biodiversity funding. In a time where the environment and native species are in crisis, the government has cut their lifeline. This lack of cash has become such a problem that individuals are now stepping in to perform tasks DOC should be capable of doing. Volunteers are keeping an active lookout on the Kapiti Marine Reserve since fishing restrictions are not being adequately enforced. DOC is only able to patrol this area for 30 hours a month with a single boat. People continue to illegally fish in the area due to the lack of security, and native species are suffering the consequences.DOC is often the only thing standing between many endangered native species and extinction. In the past 9 years, DOC has lost a total of $132 million, in real terms, of their funding. With such a vast number of native species in danger of extinction, DOC is the last government agency that needs a budget cut.
DOC’s lack of funding has restricted them from performing important conservation efforts for endangered species, like the black stilt. Two breeding aviaries for the stilts were destroyed in 2015 and, after a lengthy two years, the construction of a new aviary is only just beginning. The aviary is finally being prioritized because the GWC, an outside non-profit based in the United States, has decided to fund the project. If DOC does not have the funds to protect the stilt, one of the rarest birds in the world, what can they do?
While the species in the Kapiti Marine Reserve have local volunteers, Wellington’s subspecies of short-tailed bats may not be so lucky. Forest & Bird, and DOC, are worried the bats have been victims of extinction. As the only native mammal in New Zealand, protecting the endangered bats should have been a manageable priority for DOC. The possible extinction of the Wellington bat population shows that DOC is no longer capable of protecting the species in their care.
Instead of trying to find ways to increase DOC funding, the government is focusing their attention on how to evade environmental protections to allow coal mining. They are trying to implement ‘Special Economic Zones’ which will enable controversial developments like coal mining to proceed on conservation land. The government has seemingly decided that economic growth is more important than environmental health, as evidenced by these SEZs and their plans for the Oparara Basin. The Basin is to be turned into a “Moa Town” by using giant moa installations to attract tourists and Instagrammers. This exploitation of New Zealand’s land for profit seems to be the only time the government is actually interested in the natural environment.
Not only is the government slashing the budget of the department protecting biodiversity, but they are using underhanded methods to further harm the environment, whose protective agency no longer has a means to do their job. The government’s disregard for the natural world has taken a frightening turn.