Scientists protest DOC cuts

In an open letter to the Conservation Minister, a group of over 100 New Zealand scientists have expressed their “collective dismay” at the restructuring of the Department of Conservation.

The letter, released today, called for the government to commit to a well-funded Department of Conservation. It was sent  in response to the government’s announcement that the Department would be cutting science and technical support staff roles.

The call for action, along with the signatures of 107 conservation biologists and scientists, was released to the Minister of Conservation MP Kate Wilkinson today, mid-way through the 25th International Congress for Conservation Biology 2011 being held in Auckland this week.

They say the loss of nearly 100 jobs over the next six months will seriously erode the Department of Conservation’s efforts in conservation management and planning, as many species and ecosystems “teeter on the edge of oblivion.”

“There is an ongoing reduction in capacity, support and funding for New Zealand conservation, along with the continual threat of restructuring and reprioritisation of resources”, the letter states.  “The loss of positions coupled with those who chose to leave an under-resourced and uncertain future within the department is to the detriment of New Zealand Conservation and ultimately to New Zealanders.”

Drawing on examples such as the kakapo and the takahe, the document describes the importance of a functional and funded department before concluding:

“We acknowledge the current economic challenges facing the globe but we also ask that conservation management and science be properly acknowledged as a strategic asset for the wealth of all New Zealanders and funded as such. Recessions come and go: extinction is forever.”

You can read the full letter here.

The letter of protest hasn’t been missed by the mainstream media. Examples of coverage include:

New Zealand Herald: ‘Extinction is forever’: Scientists’ letter to Minister

Otago Daily Times: Scientists say job cuts will hurt NZ

TV3 News: Scientists warn over DOC job cuts

NewsTalkZB: Scientists send warning over staff cuts

Dominion Post (and other Fairfax papers): DOC cuts damage 100% pure brand

Radio New Zealand: Open letter of protest sent to govt