The release of the Government's Budget has again prompted allegations of figure-fudging around what is actually being spent on front-line conservation.

Budget 2017 includes an additional $107.8 million for conservation programmes and to manage tourism growth on public conservation land, bringing Government conservation funding to $466m in 2017/18.

The new funding includes $21.3m in 2016/17 for Battle for Our Birds pest control programmes, $44.6m in operating and $41m in capital for tourism infrastructure and $750,000 in 2017/18 for the establishment of two new marine protected areas in Hauraki and Marlborough.

The Department of Conservation has produced its own Budget explainer, stating that its total departmental budget has increased from $316m in 2008/09 to $376m in 2017/18.


DoC stated that, even with a major funding injection for tourism, most of its operating budget was still spent on species protection and ecosystem maintenance.

In 2017/18, 47 per cent of the departmental budget would go toward natural heritage and biodiversity, with 39 per cent on recreation.

The rest was spent on working with the community to grow conservation, and historic heritage and policy advice.

But Forest & Bird has made its own calculations, claiming the Budget means a $12m real-term reduction in DoC's core biodiversity funding.

"The Government is trying to confuse the true picture by including its one-off emergency spending on the 'Battle for Our Birds' response to the latest beech masting event," the group's chief executive Kevin Hague said.

"When you take out this one-off $21.3m funding for the Battle for Our Birds, the core budget for managing natural heritage is actually $30m less than the 2008/09 budget and $12m less than last year's budget.

"While Forest and Bird fully support this emergency funding, we are very concerned that there has been a reduction in funding for DoC's core biodiversity protection work."

The group claimed that, over the last nine years, the core budgeted funding for protecting our native animals, plants and landscapes has declined in real terms by nearly 17 per cent.

"When you compare its budget for core biodiversity protection in 2008/09, the Department of Conservation has been consistently underfunded in every following year. This underfunding adds up to a total of $132m in real terms over those nine years.

"The 2017/18 budget has just increased that shortfall."

The group wanted DoC's core natural heritage budget to more than double from $152m this year to $330m per year over the next four years.

The Green Party has also offered its own calculations, provided by the Parliamentary Library, which show DoC would have $26m less this year to invest in protecting nature than it did in 2008.

"This amounts to a cumulative budget cut of $422m to Vote Conservation since National took office," the party's conservation spokeswoman Mojo Mathers said.

"One-off funds during beech mast years do not replace the need for a sustained increase in core DoC funding. Both are needed for effective protection of our native species."