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Forest & Bird signs Denniston reserve agreement

Tuesday 12 November 2013 - Wellington

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Forest & Bird signs Denniston reserve agreement for sake of nature

Forest & Bird has decided not to appeal an Environment Court decision allowing an open-cast coal mine on the Denniston Plateau, and has reached an agreement that will ensure at least some of the plateau is protected for the sake of the native plants and animals it hosts.

As part of the agreement signed late yesterday between the conservation charity and Buller Coal Ltd (owned by Bathurst Resources), the company will create and permanently protect a special reserve on the plateau, referred to as the “Denniston Permanent Protection Area (DPPA).”

October’s Environment Court judgement only required Bathurst Resources to employ its “best endeavours” in regards to protecting this area. Forest & Bird was concerned that “best endeavours” meant the company would not be required to create the reserve, and sought a stronger outcome through the agreement.

“The decision not to appeal the Environment Court judgement was a hard one. We consider the Denniston Plateau to be one of the most precious parts of the conservation estate,” says Forest & Bird Top of the South Field Officer Debs Martin.

“But we made the agreement, for two reasons.

“Until last month, the Environment Court’s view had been that the case was ‘finely balanced’ – that is, that our case was a good one. But it is clear the court has now largely accepted that the mine will proceed. While an appeal may have been successful, it would not have actually stopped the mine,” says Debs Martin.

“The second reason we made this agreement is that we want to make certain Bathurst Resources will create and protect the reserve. By doing this, we are ensuring Bathurst won’t just have to try – they’ll have to deliver on their undertaking. 

“Forest & Bird will strive to protect what will be left of the Denniston and nearby Stockton plateaux from coal mining. 

“The Department of Conservation says the Denniston Plateau is on its list of the top 50 most ecologically significant sites on mainland New Zealand. Scientists have highlighted its incredible range of endemism, which means many of its plants and animals are found nowhere else on Earth. Under previous governments of both shades, DOC would have gone to court to protect Denniston. But the department was not present – which is why community groups like ours have been saddled with the high cost of legal action to protect those values,” says Debs Martin.

“Given the coal industry is going to be allowed to mine such a sensitive part of the conservation estate, we hope DOC will now do what is required of it by law and make sure the plants and animals on what will be left of the Denniston and Stockton plateaux are saved from extinction.

“This case has been a significant one for Forest & Bird. While we have not been able to prevent Denniston from being open-cast mined, we have made some good gains for conservation. If we hadn’t got involved, Bathurst wouldn’t be legally committed to creating the reserve. Most New Zealanders would still have never heard of the Denniston Plateau. And New Zealanders would be none the wiser in regards to the new animal species that were discovered on the plateau during the course of our campaign,” Debs Martin says.

Click for big version.

Map shows the naturally-occurring sandstone pavements of the Denniston Plateau, with the footprint of Bathurst’s open cast coal mine in red, and the boundary of the DPPA in green.


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