12, Jun, 2005

National Party commits to retaining DOC

Category: ECO Inc

National Party environment spokesperson Nick Smith today made an 'absolute commitment' that a National-led government would not split up the Department of Conservation at the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society Annual General Meeting in Wellington.

"Forest and Bird is pleased that National has affirmed its commitment to keeping the Department of Conservation as a single dedicated government agency," said Forest and Bird President Dr. Peter Maddison.

"Both of the main political parties have now committed to not splitting up the Department of Conservation, so United Future's proposal to split the department looks more endangered than the kakapo," he said.

"The only place where a conservation department was recently split up was in the state of Victoria in Australia. The split-up was such a failure that Victoria is now trying to put their conservation department back together again," he said.

"Nick Smith also committed National to passing a Marine Reserves Bill," he said.

"However, we are concerned that National still prefers to lock up the South Island's high country through private covenants and private ownership, rather than open up new areas in the high country by creating public parks. Federated Farmers' campaign to close down public access highlights why public ownership of the high country is so important," he said.

"We were pleased that Conservation Minister Chris Carter made strong statements in support of more marine reserves, a network of high country parks, improved public access and greater pest control. However Forest and Bird members clearly stated their concerns about the threat to native wildlife posed by state owned mining company Solid Energy," he said.

"We were also pleased that Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons launched the Green Party's conservation policy at our forum. We appreciated the commitment she made to pest control, more sustainable agriculture and fisheries and increasing the Nature Heritage Fund by $15 million a year," he said.

Notes Forest and Bird held a Political Forum with conservation and environment representatives of the Green Party, Labour Party, National Party and United Future Party on Sunday 12 June from 10.30am until 12.15pm at the Mercure Hotel, 355 Willis Street, Wellington. All political parties represented in Parliament were invited to participate.

The forum involved ten minute presentations from Green Party Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, Conservation Minister Chris Carter, National Party environment spokesperson Nick Smith and United Future Party conservation spokesperson Larry Baldock.

Issues covered in the forum include marine reserves, bottom trawling, pest control, threatened species management, role of the Department of Conservation, Resource Management Act reform and high country protection.

Contact: Dr. Peter Maddison, President: 09 818 6803 Kevin Hackwell, Conservation Manager, 04 801 2215, 021 227 8420