The Department of Conservation has been awarded a $100 million increase in its budget – as Tourism New Zealand has seen its funding frozen.
The increase in funding allocated through the government’s 2019 budget gives DOC a total of just under $500 million, with around half of this year’s increase to come through the international visitor levy due for implementation on July 1.
By contrast, Tourism NZ’s funding freeze maintains its budget at $111 million and follows a budget cut of $6 million in 2018. The amount allocated over the coming year to supporting the ‘100% Pure NZ’ campaign has been cut by $3 million to $51.5 million.
The DOC increase includes $10.7 million for security guards to protect staff from activists protesting the use of the controversial 1080 poison.
Six security staff will be employed to ensure volunteers are safe as they carry out pest reduction work, and swipe-card systems and upgrade CCTV will be fitted at all offices, workshops, yards and other locations considered at risk of threats.
Forest and Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said the security funding was disappointing but necessary.
“It’s so frustrating and disappointing that the tactics used by the anti-1080 activists have made that necessary. We could have better used that money for biodiversity protection,” he said.
Mr Hague welcomed the additional funding for the DOC, telling Stuff the government had acknowledged the “importance of nature in New Zealand by devoting more money to natural heritage protection”.
“Income from international tourists is going towards DOC, and the vast majority of the money will benefit our native wildlife and ecosystems, not just more toilets and car parks,” he said.
While Tourism NZ has seen a freeze in funding, $800,000 has been ring-fenced to help meet government commitments to China New Zealand Year of Tourism events from July to December.
Tourism Export Council chief executive Judy Chen told the NZ Herald: ”We would like to see some legacy created as a result so the industry will continue to benefit from this initiative beyond this year.”
New Zealand Trade and Enterprise was awarded $1.5 million in the budget for a program designed to leverage business opportunities presented through the upcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan.