Battling with a $54 million budget cut has shifted the Conservation Department's focus toward reaping commercial rewards – but this does not mean the environment will suffer, its director-general says.
Al Morrison has fended off Green Party accusations that it is focusing on attracting big business at the expense of biodiversity.That budget cut is real and a disgrace.
Morrison - When you say we have got a commercial focus, what it means is we have a lot of New Zealand involved in conservation ... the untapped part in involving New Zealand in conservation is in business. It is not, I can assure you, so we can get lots of revenue."
The untapped part??? What is he talking about. It is untrue to say that you have had a budget cut and are courting commercial interests but not for revenue - why are you doing it then al?
Green MP Kevin Hague at an environment select committee meeting yesterday argued there was an obvious tension between the department's needs to maintain a focus on conservation values and trying to make inroads into business.
For example, when an icecream kiosk opened at Coromandel's Cathedral Cove beach last year, a flurry of angry emails went to Prime Minister John Key and then conservation minister Tim Groser, saying DOC's decision to allow commerce on the beach was "philosophically wrong". This showed that trying to make money from conservation land in this way was misplaced, he said.
But Mr Morrison said only a handful of people had objected and, on his visit to the beach, the vendor was not a nuisance – and was in fact selling "tempting" buns.So we go from philosophically wrong to tempting buns. That is a fail in my book - it doesn't answer the question regarding the underlying philosophy - or maybe it actually does - (shudder).
Good on the greens for skewering this spinner.