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October 2013 Issue
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Editorial, October 2013

Last month we ran a survey on the Wilderness website asking readers how they would most prefer DOC to be funded. After receiving hundreds of responses, I have to admit to being somewhat surprised. Most respondents indicated they were happy for DOC to pursue partnerships with businesses, what I call the commercialisation of the conservation estate.

I guess that’s the economic reality we face right now, though some of the deals made to date seem less about conservation and more about ticking the ‘corporate social responsibility’ box. In some cases, like Fonterra’s $20 million deal over 10 years to help restore five sensitive waterways, it appears DOC has even sold its soul.

On the day this issue went to print (September 17), it was revealed that DOC wrote a neutral, two paragraph submission on the proposed Ruataniwha water-storage scheme in the Hawke’s Bay designed to irrigate yet more dairy farms. This despite having produced a 32-page draft submission in which DOC warned that the proposal is risky, untested and could pollute the Tukituki and Waipawa Rivers. The Tukituki River was featured in the February issue of Wilderness as one of five rivers facing extreme threats.

It’s DOC’s job to go in to bat for the environment and the conservation estate. When I heard it didn’t share its concerns for the Tukituki with the Ruataniwha Board of Inquiry deciding the matter, I couldn’t help but think back to the $20m Fonterra deal and wonder if it’s now in DOC’s commercial interest to turn a blind eye to the ruinous farming practices that have been a major contributor to the pollution of most New Zealand rivers.

It’s a sorry state that DOC now has to juggle doing what’s best for the environment while managing conflicting business relationships, particularly when DOC’s capacity to get the most from any corporate deal is seriously hindered by continual budget and staff cuts.

You can read more about the DOC funding survey in Walkshorts and see the results in chart form on our website.

I’m pleased to say I managed to fulfill my one and only 2013 New Year’s resolution a few weeks ago.

I don’t normally make resolutions because they tend to be quickly forgotten and that kind of defeats the purpose. But in the January issue this year I rather rashly said I wanted to do an off-track winter trip in Tongariro National Park. I thought it would build on a neat snowshoeing experience I had in the park a couple of years ago. Well, the trip, a camp on the summit of Ruapehu and then descending the mountain via the northern Waihohonu Ridge, came to fruition in late July. Things didn’t quite go according to plan (see p30), but my resolution was accomplished. I won’t be so daft as to suggest another resolution for 2014, though.

This month we say ‘auf weidersehen’ to deputy editor Josh Gale who has moved to Germany with his wife Juliana. At the same time we say ‘g’day’ to Matthew Pike, who has flown the other way, from England, to live in New Zealand. Matt comes with loads of outdoor and journalistic experience and will seamlessly continue to write riveting and essential stories.

– Alistair Hall, Editor