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New Conservation Park Proposed For Torlesse Range

The Minister of Conservation Hon Sandra Lee has announced her intention to create a conservation park to protect 22,000 hectares of high country on Canterbury's Torlesse Range.

"This is an exciting opportunity to create a magnificent high country conservation park in the Canterbury foothills of the Southern Alps," Ms Lee said.

"The Torlesse Range is an area rich in natural treasures and of outstanding scenic value. The protection of its tussock grasslands, rock screes and beech forests in a conservation park will be an important advance for high country conservation."

The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society first proposed a conservation park on the Torlesse Range in 1991. Since then, pastoral lease and privately owned land has been acquired by the Crown either under the tenure review process or purchased through the Nature Heritage Fund. These additions connected up existing conservation areas, making the idea of a conservation park more of a reality.

"The Torlesse Range is one of the most accessible in the country for a wide range of recreation opportunities," said Ms Lee. "The area is widely used for walking, natural history study, scenery appreciation, and hunting. It is also an important location for scientific research and education."

"Travellers on the highway between Christchurch and the West Coast are treated to panoramic views of the proposed park as they approach Porters Pass," said Ms Lee.

The Torlesse Range is a high dry mountain range with remarkable flora and fauna. Slim-leaved snow tussock, a plant community that is poorly represented in protected areas, is common. The high altitude tussock grasslands represent the eastern limit of mid-ribbed snow tussock.

Unusual plants and animals adapted to withstand the harsh climate and unstable environment are found in the screes and open rock ridges. Amongst the specialised plants are native grasshoppers, weta, lizards and butterflies. Kea, falcon and pipit are among the bird species that inhabit the grasslands and beech forests.

The proposed park is also an important area for the promotion and education of conservation values. There are opportunities for the interpretation of historic, natural history and cultural values within the area.

Several interested parties have provided feedback into the proposal, including the Royal Forest and Bird Society, the NZ Conservation Authority, Canterbury Aoraki Conservation Board, and Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu.

"I now wish to hear from the public, particularly from Cantabrians, their views on the creation of this conservation park," said Ms Lee.

Ms Lee acknowledged the cooperation the Department of Conservation received from adjoining farmers, as the lands that will comprise the park were progressively set aside for conservation.

An information document outlining the proposal has been prepared and is available to the public from the Department of Conservation in Christchurch.

Interested members of the public are invited to make a submission by Friday 8 June 2001.

Ends

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