The Minister for Conservation is wrong

A reply to Hon Tama Potaka from our CEO Louise Saunders

"I'm not the only one to say this... the Minister for Conservation is wrong.

It is not “aspirational” to save every native species. It is essential. Every species is linked in myriad ways to hundreds of other species in habitats and ecosystems across our country. How many species would the Minister have us lose before the natural infrastructure on which our lives and economy depend no longer supports us?  It’s not that we can’t afford to save species, it’s that we simply can’t afford NOT to.

As Nicola Toki rightly points out, we can’t try to pick winners and abandon the rest… Pāpātuānuku doesn’t work like that, she needs all her children to thrive. I wonder how our own children will feel if we bet on the wrong horse and jeopardise their future?

And as to the cost, anyone working in the coal face of conservation knows exactly what it costs because we have to raise the money.  It doesn’t all come from the Government, far from it. So much conservation funding comes from philanthropic funders, councils, Māori, communities, private donors, and businesses. And we have to justify every dollar. We measure our outcomes, audit our processes, and collaborate to make sure we are efficient.

We know we need to keep innovating, scale up activity, and bring in more funding and more people. We are not giving up just because Jobs For Nature funding is running out or the Budget cut the conservation spend yet again. There is a groundswell of innovative funding models being developed (e.g. Toha NZ) and businesses stepping up to support. Business has an essential role in fixing a broken funding model and meeting the expectations of their stakeholders and customers.

But Minister Potaka is right about one thing. It does take superhuman effort to save a species. We blessed in this country to have thousands of superheroes doing exactly that, putting in superhuman effort to save species. They are not fantastical figures fighting fictional fiends; they are real people doing daily battle with pests and pollution… and they are winning. The evidence is everywhere. A five minute google search shows global and local studies proving that conservation is slowing biodiversity loss and reversing the decline of numerous threatened species. Penny Nelson posted about another conservation win for kakariki on this platform just a few minutes ago!

We're not 'dreaming' to think we can save endangered species; we’re already doing it. We are aspirational and bloody proud of it! We're also practical and understand the challenge we face. I invite the Minister come and find out how we are doing it, how much it costs, how we will raise the money, and what he can do to support us.

Then he can go back the Environment Committee with real information about what’s possible when you work with superheroes!"

Read the original RNZ article here.

Credit: Brian Crum

Credit: Brian Crum