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Hakinakinatia nga aitanga a Tane-te-wao-nui!

Media Statement

Conservation Week 2000—31 July to 6 August:

Hakinakinatia nga aitanga a Tane-te-wao-nui! (Enjoy your parks!)

"This week is Conservation Week 2000, with the aim of highlighting the theme 'enjoy your parks' in recognition of the high value New Zealanders attach to their network of public conservation land," Conservation Minister Sandra Lee said today. "It is an opportunity to remind ourselves how important our national parks, reserves and conservation areas are to all New Zealanders."

Ms Lee said visitor figures and surveys indicated that both overseas and domestic visitors continued to find New Zealand parks and reserves attractive. She said the latest International Visitor Survey for the year ended March 2000, using data from on-going exit interviews conducted at airports, showed that 128,000 overseas visitors said they had gone trekking in New Zealand. 87,000 said they had taken a half day bush walk. 82,000 visitors said they had been to Milford Sound, in Fiordland National Park. 16,000 visitors said that they had stayed at least one night in a national park or DOC hut.

Ms Lee said recent qualitative surveys commissioned by the Department of Conservation—from a small but representative sample—also indicated that as many as one in three New Zealand adults over 18 may have stayed in a DOC hut or camped on conservation land at some stage in the past. About one in 10 may have done so in the last 12 months. The surveys also indicated that as many as two-thirds of adults may have visited a DOC visitor centre or day-tripped to a national park at some time in the past.

"In the face of such appreciation, I am determined that our public lands are recognised for their full conservation and recreation values," Ms Lee said. "They provide a recreational resource for the people of New Zealand, and a haven for our unique animal and plant species, which is especially important as the loss of biodiversity continues to be our most pervasive environmental problem. At the start of the 21st century, it is appropriate that greater protection for all our biodiversity and particularly for iwi and hapu interests in indigenous biodiversity is being put in place through the implementation of the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy," she said. That process had been bolstered by the Government allocation of $187m of extra funding in last month's Budget. She said no one could overlook that the Labour-Alliance coalition was elected with a strong conservation mandate on a raft of issues that were now being addressed through implementation of the Biodiversity Strategy.

Ms Lee said that the growing commercial pressure on the use of parks and reserves was a factor that also needed further debate. "I am concerned that we should not allow our national parks and reserves to be viewed simply for their commercial value. Rather we should continue to recognise their natural and human values as well." Ms Lee said the arguments put in support of commercial initiatives on public conservation land always needed to be weighed carefully and then offset against the lands' other values, when statutory processes were applied at the local community, regional or national level.

Ms Lee said she hoped that people would check their local newspapers and use the various Conservation Week events scheduled throughout the country during the next week to discuss the conservation values they wanted to preserve for future generations.

"All our parks-local community, regional and national-are important because they enable New Zealanders to access our special places, and the many animal and plant species found there, that are the focus of the Department of Conservation's daily work," said Ms Lee, releasing the Conservation Action 2000 publication today. DOC's natural heritage focus includes saving species and protecting natural heritage sites with help from landowners. Providing for recreation opportunities is also a major part of the Department's core work, from family picnic sites to rugged backcountry tracks. Local community involvement, including community organisations and iwi, is vital to the Department's success.

During Conservation Week 2000, the Minister of Conservation will present the annual Wellington Conservation Week awards at a Beehive function (6.30pm) on Wednesday 2 August. On Thursday 3 August, Ms Lee will join the Minister of Youth Affairs Hon Laila Harre at Cannons Creek Park in Porirua (11.15am-powhiri starts). The Ministers will take part in a joint project between the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Project Crimson to plant pohutukawa and rata trees to mark Conservation Week 2000, and promote regeneration of these trees nationwide. Simultaneously with this ceremony, the other 77 Conservation and Youth Service Corps programmes throughout New Zealand will also plant a symbolic rata or a pohutukawa in their area. On Thursday evening, Ms Lee will join DOC's Director-General Hugh Logan to make a short presentation on the Department's work during the previous year to a DOC "associates function" of conservation and environmental stakeholder groups in Wellington (5.30pm).

ENDS

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