The Green Party has challenged the National government to increase funding for the Department of Conservation.
According to the Parliamentary Library, funding for the department has dropped consistently over the past decade, which the Green Party says has a negative impact on native species protection.
The Green Party points to figures which show that the funding shortfalls over the past eight years adds up to $336 million. However, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry disputes the figures, saying it’s actually risen over that time.
The budget released by Barry’s office show the government funding for DOC at $391 million for this year. Their numbers also show a steady increase of conservation funding since National took office; they report that government DOC funding has risen from $280m in 2008/09 to a forecasted $338m for 2015/16.
In a statement released to Wilderness, the funding is explained: ‘The $391m includes initiatives announced over the last year including $20.7m for Battle for our Birds announced last week, as well as technical adjustments.’
However, Green Party MP Kevin Hague says there’s a stark difference between funding and actual spending. While it’s all well and good that DOC may be planning to spend more on DOC each year, the actual spending figures show a different reality. “Their track record has been to spend much less than they have budgeted,” Hague said, recognizing that the money that is budgeted but not spent gets absorbed in other ways, meaning DOC misses out on the promised funding.
“We’re seeing DOC funding cuts put pressure on volunteers, more species sliding towards extinction, and a reliance on corporate sponsorship for key species recovery programmes.” says Green Party conservation spokesperson Kevin Hague. “Sponsorship can work if you’re a charismatic bird that everyone loves, but if you’re a snail or a caddisfly, you’re on your own.”
According to the figures compiled by the Green Party, funding for DOC has remained an average of $55 million a year less than the last Labour Budget in 2008/09.