Predator-Free New Zealand
'Dirty Dealings in Paradise'
The New Zealand government has set a target date ~ the year 2050 ~ by which time the country should be completely rid of the its worst mammalian predators ~ possums, rats, feral cats and mustelids ( the weasel family ~ in New Zealand, the weasel, stoat and ferret). These predators are estimated to kill about 25 million native birds each year. Also Mr. John Key the Prime Minister on the 25th of July announced several interim goals:
~ One million hectares of land where predators are suppressed or removed
~ A scientific breakthrough making it possible to eliminate at least one mammalian predator
~ A demonstration that areas of 20,000 hectares can be kept predator-free without the use of fences; and
~ Complete removal of all introduced predators from offshore island nature reserves.
These are all splendid goals, and the government deserves our congratulations.
But will these targets be achieved? While we hope so, we regret to say that we have our doubts.
There are several reasons, all connected with each other. One is money. The government has offered ‘kick-start’ funding of $28 million ~ spread over four years, so $7million a year ~ and then an extra dollar for every two dollars given by local bodies and the private sector. Local government has plenty of other calls on ratepayers’ money, and will simply be unable to contribute much. Although there are certainly some possibilities in the private sector, we simply cannot see that New Zealand businesses will be able to come up with anything like the sums required either, both for research ~ in the laboratory and the wild ~ and actual predator eradication operations.
There is, however, plenty of overseas philathropic organisations, corporations and philanthropist's that see a PFNZ as a template for the rest of the world and have shown interest, and this brings us to the second reason, which is the proposed organisation of this new PFNZ body. For some years we have briefed the government ~ in particular, Bill English (Deputy Prime Minister), Nick Smith (formerly Minister of Conservation) and Eric Roy ~ as to how we saw a successful PFNZ operating ~ as an independent not-for-profit organisation run with principles, rules and integrity and on strict efficient business like lines, working alongside the Department of Conservation, and free of any government involvement. We believed, and still do believe, that it is vital to make it clear that PFNZ is a truly non-governmental organisation, and not, as the government is now proposing, a ‘Crown entity’.
If it is a Crown entity then there is the serious possibility that generously-minded overseas philanthropists and institutions wanting to donate money to a PFNZ (with obvious association) are going to fall foul of the anti-bribery laws of their own countries, which in many cases, following an international anti-bribery agreement, prohibit gifts to overseas governments and government-connected bodies if there is (as there might well reasonably be ~ immigration being one) an intention to influence official acts or decisions involving directing business in certain directions. So an overseas philanthropist who said ‘I think PFNZ is a good investment or doing a good job, but I think any money which I give it should be spent in this direction’ to assist an immigration application say ~ could thereby become a criminal. So who would do that?
To establish PFNZ as a Crown entity is actually cutting off a major source of funding, and throwing a financial burden which overseas interests would be happy to bear back onto New Zealanders’ shoulders. The Taxpayer!
To re-cap ~ PFNZ will be the biggest and the most ambitious green initiative in the whole world. It will be a template and an inspiration for the rest of the world. Overseas philanthropists and businesses will want to be involved.
It is mysterious that a National government, in particular, should be keen to do this. National’s ideology is one of reducing, where possible, the role of the state. National is prepared to privatise serious core government services ~ in housing, education, health and prisons, for example. So why would the government stubbornly resist this opportunity to allow private interests to do good at their own expense? Bringing the financial burden back onto the New Zealand taxpayer! Why ?
This brings us to the Department of Conservation. The Department has now been operating for almost thirty years. There have been occasional conservation successes in that time ~ the kakapo and the black robin, for example ~ although even those efforts faced some departmental push back, reluctance and even obstruction. But most species of native bird, bat, lizard, frog and fish are critically threatened and continue to decline. So do many native invertebrates, and many native plants.
Who has presided over this decline?
The Department of Conservation.
The Department does not even have any specific duty under the Conservation Act to restore native species.
Half the Department of Conservation's budget is spent on tourism support.
Is it not remarkable that the government is now establishing our Predator Free New Zealand to do the very thing that the Department of Conservation should have been doing for the last three decades ?
If PFNZ ends up as a Crown entity, though, it will inevitably end up as the Department of Conservation by another name. Its board will be people the Minister of Conservation decides/approves of; its procedures, and its attitudes, will be those of the Department of Conservation. The very fact that the government ~ the Minister of Conservation in particular ~ have refused to countenance an independent PFNZ suggests to us that the Department is anxious to ensure that it remains in charge of the PFNZ project.
What confidence can donors have that a project with the Department in charge will succeed? Look at the Department’s track record.
What confidence can New Zealanders have that the Department will be any more successful in the future than it has been in the past?
We established the PFNZ concept, idea's and plans in 2007/2008 with our own money, energy and hard work. We coined the name. We established this website and e-mail address, and have spent countless hours since ~ and a great deal of money! ~ developing/scoping practical and professional plans for a largely non-toxin mainland predator eradication project.The Department of Conservation has those plans.
First it was the Callaghan deception. The now departed Sir Paul Callaghan was an excellent man, but he was misrepresented by others as the ‘visionary’ who began the PFNZ idea. The Prime Minister so described him, and the Prime Minister doubtless sincerely believed that; but it was not so.
Who and why deceived the Prime Minister?
Then that gambit began to unravel, and the Minister of Conservation has since, very belatedly, written to acknowledge our own place at the beginning. (Letter attached) Without our permission or even our knowledge, the Department of Conservation registered the Predator Free New Zealand Trust with the Charities Commission (now Charities Services) on the 10th of June 2013. That was dishonourable and underhand behaviour.
No request, no consultation, just taking someone else’s concept, plans, name and ideas.
And now, with the plan for a Crown entity of the same name, not even following our ideas and plans through properly….Why?
Is it the Department of Conservation's intention to use the Predator Free New Zealand Chariable Trust to collect donations and then pass those donations onto the 'Crown entity' ~ if so then that is deceitful and dishonest in the extreme!
A predator-free New Zealand is vital, achievable and affordable. Exciting new research is developing new cunning re-setting non-toxin traps, more potent lures, allowing us to bring the animals to us not us to them, who can say what other ingenious techniques are around the corner. At Harts Hill, beside the Kepler Track, (Fiordland National Park) for example, a network of self-re-setting non-toxin traps has already been successful at reducing plague rat numbers to undetectable levels within months and maintaining that status.
PFNZ is cost positive.....
Let us look at the matter this way ~ what is the cost of not making New Zealand predator-free?
Extinction of New Zealand's native species!
In 2009 we surveyed some people to assess the tourism, fisheries, dairying, viticulture and other agricultural industries as to what they thought our ‘Clean Green’ brand was worth in brutal dollar terms.
Their answers were general, of course, but there was a consensus that our clean green branding/image alone would be worth a minimum of one billion dollars a year to our country from those industries.
And yet we continue to degrade and destroy our country and make ‘clean green’ New Zealand an increasingly false and dishonest claim. Dairying may be ~ at present ~ one of our two chief sources of overseas income, but it is always hovering on the verge of being a national scandal. Our rivers get dirtier, (un-swimmable/wade-able only), that is if they have any water in them at all; our lakes are increasingly polluted; now we progressively find communities facing drinking water crises and being told to 'boil water before use' (Havelock North/ Canterbury). Extinctions of our native species on top of all this, (the straw that broke the camel’s back) will make our clean green claim as extinct as our native species themselves. Our international trading competitor's will make sure we will never be able to use the brand again.
A loss of $1 billion minimum per year for-ever ~ like our wildlife ~ extinct!
So we simply have to have a predator-free New Zealand. And that project does not belong to the Government, but to each and every New Zealander. Each of us has to take ownership of it for it to succeed.
The Government/Ministry should do the decent thing and give the project back to the people who for the last nine years, have been privately funding, studying and researching the project so that we can work alongside the Department of Conservation to achieve the Prime Minister's declaration “a predator free New Zealand by 2050”.
Your Government/Ministry Mr. Key stole predator free New Zealand ~ give it back. If not ......Why?
On behalf of the original predatorfreenz team, les kelly, founder of Predator Free New Zealand
You can download a copy of the letter from Rt. Honourable Maggie Barry ONZM HERE