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An analysis of the costs of New Zealand threatened species programmes

Moran, Emma M.
Fields of Research
The New Zealand Department of Conservation has so far classified 2,373 species and subspecies of those so far assessed as being threatened with extinction. Annual expenditure for management services for protected species and island habitats was NZ$35.8 million in 2001/02. Some threatened species programmes, however, require far more funding than other programmes for species that are also at risk of extinction. Until now, the contribution of economics to threatened species conservation has focused on areas such as the value of threatened species and the opportunity costs of threatened species conservation in terms of economic development, and not the costs of management for threatened species. The aim of this research is to improve the formal understanding of the management costs by investigating the specific form of the cost function for threatened species programmes. The cost function is based on Swanson (1994) and describes the Present Value (PV) of the cost of a threatened species programme as a factor, inter alia, in a cost-benefit ranking criterion, which conceptualises threatened species conservation as a dynamic optimisation problem. It is proposed that the cost of a programme in a single time period is determined by the costs of the base natural resources and the management services needed to maximise the conservation of a threatened species; and that the cost of a programme over time is determined by the costs in each time period and a species' extant population and recovery rate, which together act as a controlling mechanism on these costs. To investigate the specific form of the cost function, this research conducted a cross-case analysis of the costs of New Zealand threatened species programmes. Cost data was collected and analysed from a survey of the Department of Conservation's Recovery Group Leaders for eleven programmes from 2003 until 2012 and used to test hypotheses developed from the theorised characteristics of the cost function. Although the results of the cross-case analysis are subject to uncertainty, habitat area and a species' taxon are identified as two factors that determine the specific costs of New Zealand threatened species programmes. The results also indicate that many threatened species programmes receive minimal or partial funding and, as a consequence, the conservation of species may be delayed, which could increase the risk of further decline, or even extinction, of species and the total cost of the programme. It is recommended that estimates of costs are included in recovery plans, cost-effectiveness analysis of threatened species programmes is conducted, cost and a species' possible recovery rate are included as factors in priority ranking systems, and the costs of threatened species programmes are used in funding applications for threatened species conservation.