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Source: Department of Conservation

Date:  08 April 2022

The Options Development Group (ODG) report, the views of an independent panel appointed in 2020, addresses matters highlighted by the Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki Supreme Court case.

That case and others have challenged aspects of the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) decision making – particularly regarding its obligations to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Director-General of Conservation Penny Nelson, who started in her role late last year, says the report covers a wide range of issues and will take some time to consider.

“This report looks at how decisions about conservation should be made in Aotearoa New Zealand, and how we can reflect and honour Te Tiriti in those decisions.

“It is an honest and challenging view and it will take some time to absorb before any decisions can be made about its recommendations.

“There will be public consultation before we adopt any policy changes.”

The ODG’s primary task was to advise on how two key pieces of DOC guidance, the Conservation General Policy and the General Policy for National Parks, could be revised to better reflect Treaty of Waitangi responsibilities.

The general policies set the national direction for how DOC and others with conservation roles fulfil their responsibilities under conservation legislation.

In particular, the general policies are the foundation for statutory management planning for public conservation lands and waters, and decision-making about any activities that engage with our natural and historic heritage.

The ODG was also asked to identify limitations within DOC’s wider policy settings and legislation, and to recommend possible solutions.

“As a department we do work closely with whānau, hapū and iwi across the country and there are already a lot of good programmes underway.

“However, there are also barriers and issues that tangata whenua have been raising for many years.”

Penny Nelson says in some instances, such as issues around access to cultural materials, the report makes recommendations which align with work which is already underway to address them – in this case, a review of the Wildlife Act 1953.”

“Any work we undertake to support policy or legislative changes will ensure wider conservation principles are protected. These include public access to public conservation land and waters, protecting ecosystems and the natural environment, fostering recreation in nature and supporting DOC’s vision and purpose.

“In the meantime, the report’s immediate purpose is to inform the partial reviews of general policy and how DOC works in partnership with tangata whenua.

“We will be drafting proposed amended policies in due course and expect to have nationwide public consultation on them from mid-2022.

“We understand how all New Zealanders see public conservation lands and waters as central to our identity and feel strongly about how these places are managed.

“Although the ODG has given us an informed view of where we should be headed, we absolutely want to ensure there is every opportunity for all New Zealanders to have input into this process before any decisions are taken,” Penny Nelson says.

Read the ODG report.

Background information

The ODG was set up by the former Director-General in September 2020 to ensure perspectives from te ao Māori informed the partial reviews of the Conservation General Policy and General Policy for National Parks to better reflect Treaty responsibilities in conservation.

DOC asked whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori organisations to nominate people to be on the ODG. There are also Conservation Board representatives and three DOC officials on the group.

The Minister of Conservation is the decision-maker for the Conservation General Policy, and the New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) is the decision-maker for the General Policy for National Parks; the NZCA is an independent national statutory body that provides strategic policy advice to DOC and the Minister.

The Minister and the NZCA will consider the proposals and the submissions received during public consultation before approving the new general policies.

It is expected the partial reviews of the general policies will be completed by the end of 2022.

The report makes recommendations in seven categories:

  • Fundamental Reform: Transform conservation through a fundamental reform of the conservation system
  • Purpose of Conservation: Reframe the purpose of conservation to ensure it is fit-for-purpose for Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Kawa, Tikanga, and Mātauranga: Centre kawa, tikanga, and mātauranga within the conservation system
  • Lands, Waters, Resources, Indigenous Species, and other Taonga: Recast the legal status of conservation lands, waters, resources, indigenous species and other taonga
  • Te Tiriti Partnership: Reform conservation governance and management to reflect te Tiriti partnership at all levels
  • Tino Rangatiratanga: Enable devolution of powers and functions including decision-making to meaningfully recognise the role and exercise of rangatiratanga
  • Resourcing: Build capability and capacity within DOC and tangata whenua to give effect to Te Tiriti. 


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