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DOC in crisis and forced to slash spending

Photo: Pat Barrett

A wrap of the biggest stories and best writing about the outdoors from New Zealand and around the world.

“Time is running short. For every month that we delay taking decisive action, the size of the challenge grows.” This was the warning to those in charge by DOC’s deputy director-general of corporate services Rachel Bruce.

In this fascinating investigative piece, it’s revealed how, contrary to the 2018 announcement that DOC’s funding would increase and be protected, the department is now in a state of financial crisis.

Covid has led to a huge loss of revenue, both from visitors and potentially from sponsors who might not be able to pay. The situation is even worse due to the likes of more expensive building materials, lease costs and software licence fees.

The upshot is that spending has dropped, and maintenance and replacement work on huts and tracks has been deferred.

No major system changes despite Milford Track selling out in three minutes

Although DOC has funding problems (see above), it can always rely on its most popular Great Walks bringing in plenty of revenue.

The Milford Track sold out within a record three minutes of spots going on sale, and all bunks sold in under 14 minutes. The Routeburn had sold out for the peak months within an hour.

And despite being in talks about improving the system, DOC’s booking services manager Ross Shearer said wholesale changes to the system are not likely.

“Maybe like the MIQ system where you went into a lobby or something, or went into a queue, we could look at something like that.

“But it doesn’t really change the system, there’s still going to be those that are quick on their fingers.” Read more at the ODT

‘The government needs to align its goals to achieve its biodiversity targets

This is the view of two senior folk at the Environmental Law Initiative – Matthew Hall and Allan Brent.

They’ve responded to the government’s biodiversity strategy that says around 4000 species are threatened or at risk of extinction.

In their article for RNZ, Hall and Brent wrote that although they welcome the government’s acknowledgement that urgent action is needed, they’ve identified fundamental flaws that need to be addressed so as to “avoid sleepwalking into a biodiversity crisis.”

They concluded the piece by saying: “Already the strategy and plan have been through two governments, with maybe another to follow next year’s general election. DOC is massively under-resourced and facing a budget crisis.

“To ensure the longevity of this work, perhaps what’s needed most is long-term cross-party support for urgently addressing the biodiversity crisis. Without that support and funding, regardless of what the plan is on paper, the government won’t be able to take the big actions necessary to match the scale of our biodiversity crisis.”

When your hiking buddy’s a real mountain goat!

Many people find dogs good tramping companions, but it’s far rarer to see someone accompanied by a goat.

However, it’s not unheard of. Keen tramper Caro Brooking, of Warkworth, has taken her goat, Masport, on hiking trips all over the country.

They’re accompanied by Caro’s dogs too, and the group will even camp together – Masport in the tent with Caro, and the dogs in the gear extension to the tent.

“Masport is like a dog and sticks to me like glue and happily just follows the dogs,” says Caro. “My dogs have been taught to never go off trail, or, if we’re bush-bashing, to stay within two metres of me. Masport’s the same: He never wanders off.” Read more at Stuff

Walker looks behind her to see alligator climbing fence

In New Zealand, if we hear a rustling in the bushes it’s most probably weka, and your sandwiches are in far greater danger than you are.

But in Florida, US, it can mean something far scarier. Selina Phillips was hiking on a reserve when she turned round to see an alligator climbing a fence. She took a video of the beast as it climbed over the fence and disappeared into the bushes below. An eerie silence followed.

“I didn’t actually spot the big gator (when she was walking past it), that’s the scary part,” said Phillips. “I had my back turned to the opposite side of the bridge and stopped to look at a great blue heron when I heard the noise — a strange loud, heavy clomping sound.

“How did it get there? Did we walk past each other? Did it walk behind me when my back was turned or was he already there?” Read more about this story here