20 Nov 2013

New DOC boss signals cultural shift

2:41 pm on 20 November 2013

Farming leaders are applauding a cultural shift signalled by new Department of Conservation (DOC) boss Lou Sanson.

Mr Sanson, who took over as DOC chief executive about two months ago, told the Federated Farmers' national council in Wellington on Tuesday that DOC would be focusing more on partnership arrangements with farmers and other community and commercial interests, including fishing and mining.

He said Canterbury's Hakataramea Basin was an example of what he meant by a cultural change for DOC, with a lot of land taken back into its control through tenure review.

"We've also taken a lot of musterers' huts. Generally a farmer 100 years ago put a poplar or a willow beside the hut to give him firewood for the hut," Mr Sanson said.

"The first thing DOC does is to chop down that poplar and I just wonder 'are we that hung up about our heritage that we've got to do that'. This is the culture I've got to change."

Mr Sanson said his vision was that the public must own DOC.

"Together, farmers and DOC are a jewel in the crown of heartland New Zealand and we've got to sell that story."

Mr Sanson says Molesworth Station is an example of a successful partnership between DOC and farming, in that case with Landcorp, which manages the station.

He says DOC wants to play its part in developing water storage with farmers and there are many farmer conservation initiatives that DOC is supporting.

Mr Sanson also noted the work done by the Banks Peninsular Conservation Trust, wilding pine control projects in the Lakes District and Canterbury and bird conservation at Cape Kidnappers.

As well as farmer partnerships, DOC also has sponsorship arrangements with Air New Zealand and Fonterra, which is putting $20 million over four years into conservation projects including the Waikato peak lakes, Lake Ellesmere in Canterbury and the Waituna wetlands in Southland.