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Green Party insists that DOC structures need attention

In an ongoing effort to draw attention to mismanaged conservation funding, the Green Party has released a report that shows a lengthy list of DOC structures that are unsafe or in serious need of repair.

Green Party MP Kevin Hague raised concerns to the Minister of Conservation, Maggie Barry, about the status of DOC huts, suspension bridges, viewing platforms and tracks. The results show that 1085 structures don’t meet the required service standard, and almost half of all the tracks are not up to snuff.

“It’s a sign of the National Government’s utter disregard for New Zealand’s wildlife and the natural places we love, that DOC’s facilities are falling into disrepair,” Hague said.

In a recent Parliamentary hearing, Hague raised the issue that a quarter of huts don’t meet DOC’s own service standard, including the Whariwharangi Hut on the Abel Tasman Coast Track Great Walk.

However, Barry said Hague was misrepresenting the data, saying the “required service standard” sometimes just means there’s a mattress missing.

“The data shows that about 13 of 944 huts that DOC manages had some serious work that was outstanding – something as small as a missing hearth brush is enough to mean that a hut does not meet its service standards.” Barry said. “The number needing serious work equates to just 1.3 per cent of DOC’s extensive network of – often remotely located – huts. This actually serves to reinforce DOC’s inspection and maintenance programme as very thorough.” She added that DOC spent more than $18 million on huts last year.

Director general of operations Mike Slater said DOC keeps a detailed register of ongoing work and maintenance, and that “none of this work currently involves issues which engineers consider pose an immediate threat to the public.” There are 30 structures that have serious issues which need to be addressed within the next six months.

The Green Party has also challenged the conservation minister’s figures in relation to DOC’s budget; Hague said DOC has missed out on an average of $55 million per year since the National party took office in 2008.