The Conservation Act 1987, National Parks Act 1980 and other key legislation guides DOC's work.

DOC was formed in 1987 when the Conservation Act was passed to integrate conservation management functions. This Act sets out the majority of DOC's responsibilities and roles.

DOC has a particular responsibility under section 4 of the Conservation Act to interpret and administer the Act to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. This involves building and supporting effective conservation partnerships with tangata whenua at the local level.

There is also specific legislation for such things as wildlife, reserves and national parks.

DOC administers 25 Acts of Parliament and contributes to others including the Resource Management Act 1991, the Fisheries Acts 1983 and 1996, the Biosecurity Act 1993, the Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977 and the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998.

Conservation management and the work of DOC are characterised by a high level of public input. Conservation legislation also establishes a hierarchy of conservation boards and the New Zealand Conservation Authority, an independent body appointed by the Minister. The Authority has powers to approve formal management plans binding the Department and also serves to advise the Minister. 

The legislation administered by the Department of Conservation is:

  • Canterbury Provincial Buildings Vesting Act 1928
  • Conservation Act 1987
  • Conservation Law Reform Act 1990
  • Freedom Camping Act 2011
  • Harbour Boards Dry Land Endowment Revesting Act 1991
  • Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000
  • Kapiti Island Public Reserve Act 1897
  • Lake Wanaka Preservation Act 1973
  • Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978
  • Marine Reserves Act 1971
  • Mount Egmont Vesting Act 1978
  • National Parks Act 1980
  • Native Plants Protection Act 1934
  • Ngai Tahu (Tūtaepatu Lagoon Vesting) Act 1998
  • Queen Elizabeth II National Trust Act 1977
  • Queenstown Reserves Vesting and Empowering Act 1971
  • Reserves Act 1977
  • Stewart Island Reserves Empowering Act 1976
  • Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area Act 1991
  • Trade in Endangered Species Act 1989
  • Tutae-Ka-Wetoweto Forest Act 2001
  • Waitangi Endowment Act 1932-33
  • Waitangi National Trust Board Act 1932
  • Waitutu Block Settlement Act 1997
  • Wild Animal Control Act 1977
  • Wildlife Act 1953

Other Acts under which the Department has functions are:

  • Biosecurity Act 1993
  • Crown Forest Assets Act 1989
  • Crown Minerals Act 1991
  • Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998
  • Fisheries Act 1996
  • Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977
  • Forests Act 1949
  • Land Act 1948
  • Local Government Act 1974
  • Local Government Act 2002
  • Maori Land Amendment and Maori Land Claims Adjustment Act 1926
  • Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011
  • Public Works Act 1981
  • Resource Management Act 1991
  • Treaty of Waitangi Settlement Acts

For additional information on these or any other Acts, contact your local offices of the Department of Conservation. 

There are also various policy documents to guide those exercising statutory power under the legislation. An example is:

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