Department of Conservation: Planning for and managing publicly owned land.

The Department of Conservation is responsible for managing 8.5 million hectares of publicly owned land. New Zealanders and increasing numbers of overseas visitors enjoy conservation land for its recreational and conservation values. The land contributes significantly to the economy, and to our cultural identity.

I expected the Department, which manages nearly a third of New Zealand’s total land area, to have a very clear idea about what it was doing with the land. I conducted a performance audit that looked at the Department’s strategic planning for land, and the adequacy of its management and information systems for implementing that planning.

In my view, the Department needs a national strategic plan to enable effective co-ordination of the Department’s management and information systems to achieve long-term objectives for land. The Department needs to prepare and review statutory strategies and plans within the period set by legislation, and to provide stronger central oversight of its land management and information systems. I am concerned about the non-compliance with standard operating procedures highlighted in the 2 land transaction case studies, and intend to do further work in this area.

Overall, the Department met, or partially met, most of my expectations. The Department had policies and objectives for land within its statutory planning documents, and it had comprehensive management and information systems. However, the objectives were not always clear and consistent, and the Department’s policies and objectives for land, land management, and land information systems were not always well connected.

I thank the Department’s staff, the chairpersons of the New Zealand Conservation Authority and of the Northland, East Coast Hawke’s Bay, and West Coast Tai Poutini Conservation Boards, and other stakeholders for their help and co-operation during this audit.


K B Brady
Controller and Auditor-General

18 May 2006

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