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A landmark decision in rainforest conservation

30 May 2001 Media Statement

"A landmark decision in world rainforest conservation"

Conservation Minister Sandra Lee says bringing the Timberlands West Coast indigenous forests under DOC management is "a landmark decision in world rainforest conservation".

“These 130,000 hectares are a significant addition to New Zealand's public conservation land," Ms Lee said. "About 20 percent of what has been

re-allocated will become national park land if all the Government's proposals for national park additions are accepted by the New Zealand Conservation Authority."

"The re-allocated lands are important remnants of our once extensive lowland indigenous forest. They are rich in biodiversity, and include not only forests but also wetlands, streams, rivers, lakes and even some alpine scrub and tussock grassland. The forests are home to a number of rare and threatened indigenous species, including the Okarito brown kiwi, the great spotted kiwi, kaka, kereru, karearea, kea, weka and land snails," she said.

"The Timberlands forests also contain a large number of historic and archaeological sites, especially relating to early sawmilling and gold mining. They will make a substantial addition to the recreation and tourism resources of the West Coast," Ms Lee said.

"The re-allocation of these publicly-owned forests to the Department of Conservation offers us the chance to protect forests of outstanding scenic and conservation value."

Ms Lee today publicly thanked an Independent Panel of experts involved in the re-allocation process, made up of Dr Gerry McSweeney, Dr Les Molloy, Bruce Watson, Bruce Hamilton and Mike Harding. She said they had spent several months reviewing the most appropriate future management regime for the 130,000 hectares in 29 forests. "It was a major task which they carried out with distinction," she said. Their report was also made public today.

Ms Lee said much of the land currently managed by Timberlands West Coast either bordered or linked areas already under conservation management.

"These forests buffer and often connect more extensive areas of lowland forest. As a result their strategic importance for conservation is greater than might be suggested by their size and scattered distribution."

The new conservation lands include:

- 14 parcels of forest to be added to Victoria Forest Park;

- six new ecological areas and 18 additions to ecological areas;

- two new scenic reserves and five additions to scenic reserves;

- one new scientific reserve;

- one new wildlife management area and five additions to wildlife management areas;

- three new wildlife refuges;

- two new amenity areas and one addition to an amenity area;

- many additions to conservation areas.

Last week's Budget set aside new funding of an additional million dollars for DOC to manage the 130,000 hectares of TWC indigenous forests it was now acquiring.

Ms Lee will be asking the New Zealand Conservation Authority to begin the process of providing advice to her on the addition of some areas of the Timberlands forests to the Kahurangi, Paparoa and Westland/Tai Poutini national parks, as recommended by the Independent Panel. The Authority is obliged to consult with the West Coast Conservation Board.

The panel's recommendation to establish a new Maruia-Wairau National Park, embracing the Lewis Pass National Reserve, Maruia Valley beech forests and upper Waiau Valley, would be investigated in due course with full public consultation, Ms Lee said.

"I support the recommendations to create a new Kawatiri Conservation Park, between the Kahurangi National Park and the lower Buller Gorge, and a new Mawhera Conservation Park in the lower Grey Valley, and they will now be investigated."

Ms Lee said consultative committees would be set up with West Coast community and interest groups to enable continuing dialogue between the Conservation Department and West Coasters about the future management of the new conservation lands.

The change of status to conservation land for the Timberlands forests would not affect existing access agreements for commercial purposes, which include mining, sphagnum moss harvesting and firewood gathering.

"These forests will be open to a wide range of activities, as are all conservation forests," Ms Lee said. "At the same time they will be protected for the future enjoyment of New Zealanders and other visitors."

The Conservation Minister said about 46,000 hectares throughout the West Coast will be in the initial land batch being gazetted to take effect on 1 July 2001.

The final gazettals are expected to take effect on 1 April 2002, the day after Timberlands West Coast is required to stop its remaining indigenous logging.


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