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Home arrow Articles by Topic arrow Economic benefits arrow Address to the Conservation Estate Symposium
Address to the Conservation Estate Symposium PDF Print
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Articles - Economic benefits
Written by Hon. Tim Groser, Conservation Minister and Trade Minister   
Monday, 20 July 2009

Hon. Tim Groser

This symposium has been called to discuss how the public conservation lands and waters should be developed and managed.

The topics set out in the programme are as varied as they are interesting. Many are clearly for specialists. I do believe however there is a gap. It is a gap that is frequently missing from the discussion about conservation and that is to talk about how conservation can contribute more towards the prosperity of New Zealand. What part does conservation have to play in our economy?

I am going to use my time to address that topic.

Why is it that the conservation economy is not a concern that occupies much, if any, time at conservation symposiums?

The obvious answer is because that is not how we think about conservation.

This point is underscored by my department's driving legislation.

The Conservation Act defines conservation as: "...the preservation and protection of natural and historic resources for the purpose of maintaining their intrinsic values, providing for the appreciation and recreational enjoyment by the public, and safeguarding the options of future generations".

The only direct benefit statement in the Act is to concede that, provided it is not inconsistent with their conservation, the department can use these resources to foster recreation and allow tourism.

So tourism is the only economic contribution from conservation recognised in the Act, and then only in the context of the somewhat restrictive notion of "allow".

Intrinsic, or ethical, values are the primary reason in the Act for conservation.

On that basis, New Zealand has built a $400 million conservation department that is responsible for managing one third of the land, the seabed and foreshore, protected marine areas, and, all marine mammals, native animals, birds and freshwater fish and pest animals.

That is a considerable achievement. It is the basis on which a high level of public support for conservation as a public good has been built.

The Government will work to protect the resources that tourism providers rely on - clean air, clean water, and unique landscapes.
- John Key

But in addition to that, if there is an economic benefit, then we should know about it, welcome it, and manage for it, because it strengthens the justification for public and private spending on conservation. It does so by shifting support for conservation from being a social cost to a social investment.

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