The Labour Leader, David Cunliffe, has promised that a Labour Government will restore the swinging cuts made in the Department of Conservation (DoC) by the National Government.
In an exclusive interview with the Kapiti Independent, Mr Cunliffe also says the present emphasis on commercial partnerships would change under Labour.
“Commercial partnerships must not be a necessity for DoC to fund its core functions,” he says.
KIN: Will you as (Prime Minister) do something about the sad state of DoC, and reverse the cutbacks made by National?
David Cunliffe: The Department of Conservation has been absolutely robbed of its primary function by the National Government. Its fundamental role is to advocate for and protect our conservation estate and its inhabitants.
“Labour believes the protection of our unique environment is essential to New Zealand’s identity. It is the basis of our clean, green image and the foundation of our economy.”
The Labour Leader points out that, since the Labour Government established DoC in 1987, the Department has been charged with protecting the natural environment — and providing opportunities for New Zealanders and visitors to enjoy the outdoors.
However, he says:” The focus of the Department has shifted significantly in the past five years and this has been to the detriment of conservation values and our nation as a whole.”
KIN: Will you do something about changing the ‘commercial’ culture of DoC?
David Cunliffe: “The agreement between the incoming (Labour Government) Minister and the Director General of the Department will make it clear its priorities must change and that DoC’s focus as an environmental advocate and an organisation achieving conservation gains must be restored.
“DoC’s performs a public service. The protection of our natural heritage is a role the state must take.”
The Labour Leader also points out that, while Labour supports partnerships between government departments and the community, iwi, voluntary sector and business, these must enhance the work of the (Conservation)Department.
He adds: “Commercial partnerships must not be a necessity for DoC to fund its core functions.”
“The protection of some of our most endangered species is now dependent upon sponsorship from business. Should any of these businesses withdraw their sponsorship, this work is in jeopardy. That is an unacceptable situation.”
KIN: Just how highly does Labour rate the importance of DoC? Will DoC jobs be restored?
David Cunliffe: “Labour will restore the funding National has slashed from the Department. A Labour government will ensure DoC can fulfill fundamental functions such as safeguarding our biodiversity.”