Conservation board appointments announced – after Sage called for fresh nominations

Sensitive to the widespread outrage they have caused by supporting the Waka Jumping Bill, the Greens will be keen to mollify angry party members by trumpeting other accomplishments.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has done her bit to this effect today by announcing 57 appointments to the country’s 15 conservation boards.

Sage’s media statement boasts that more than half the new appointments are women.

“These appointments bring the number of women on the boards to 52 per cent and 41 per cent identify as Maori.”

The extent to which merit was subordinated to enable Sage to highlight those statistics is a fair question.  Her greater priority was to meet diversification criteria.

The nominations had been closed in March when Sage announced they had been reopened “to ensure they reflect the diverse communities they serve”.

Her statement at that time said DOC had re-opened the nomination process “on the Minister’s recommendation”.

The nomination process for the 2018 appointments was undertaken late last year.

The department had received 143 nominations for a total of 45 positions – fewer than the numbers of appointments announced today – at the time fresh nominations were called.

“Membership of the boards should reflect the strong and diverse public interest in conservation and protecting New Zealand’s natural and historic resources,” Ms Sage said then.

“I want to cast the net wider, using online and media channels, to ensure a wide range of people know about the roles and how to apply.”

The new process opened on March 18 and nominations closed on April 14.

There were 280 applications second time around.

Sage was required to consider nominations and decide appointments by June 30.

Her announcement today has been made a few days after the appointments actually took effect on July 1.

In the March statement Sage said:

“People who already put their names forward will still be considered.”

Today’s announcement does not mention how many of these passed muster.

But we do know she had been hoping to appoint people

” … with knowledge of nature conservation, natural earth and marine sciences, cultural heritage, recreation, tourism, the local community and a Māori perspective.

“On any one board there may be students, teachers, farmers, fishers, scientists, builders, tourism operators, home makers and retired people.”

Obviously the new nominations did the trick of meeting the Minister’s requirements, because today she has said:

“I am thrilled to see such diversity coming across in the boards and congratulate each of the 57 people who are stepping up to represent their communities, 34 of whom are serving for the first time.”

The conservation boards are the link between DOC and the community, helping ensure each region’s voice is heard on conservation issues.

Their functions are set out in Section 6M of the Conservation Act 1987 and in the National Parks and Reserves Acts.

This year, Sage said, boards will have a greater focus on promoting recreation opportunities and tourism on conservation land, and enhancing relationships with iwi and hapū.

Prospective board members are advised that most boards meet four-five times a year and meetings take a full day, sometimes longer – particularly if inspection visits are needed.

There will be committee meetings, too, and time required for researching issues and working on reports or submissions, preparation time spent reading briefing material before meetings, and time for liaison and public consultation.

Board members are paid $180 a day for meetings and fieldtrips. They can also claim for preparation time, and for fair and reasonable expenses.


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