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Conservation briefing paper released

Conservation well placed to meet challenges ahead

Conservation Minister Chris Carter said today that the Department of Conservation’s briefing paper to the government highlights several major challenges ahead if New Zealand is to maintain and restore our natural ecosystems and their unique indigenous wildlife.

Mr Carter said the Biodiversity Strategy (approved in February 2000) and the $187 million funding package behind it had placed the Department of Conservation in the best position ever to halt the decline in indigenous biodiversity.

Notable successes include: Establishment of five kiwi sanctuaries on the mainland Eradication of rats from Campbell Island Establishment of a new national park on Stewart Island/Rakiura Successful breeding of kakapo on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island. Protection of 132,000 hectares of former Timberlands rainforest on the West Coast Establishment of the Chinese Conservation Education Trust Significant increases in the area of Maori land being managed for conservation

“Conservation has been put on a sound footing and given the resources and political backing to succeed after years of being a Cinderella department,” said Mr Carter.

The Briefing paper highlighted several areas where more work is required.

“Marine conservation will be a priority as there has been real difficulty in establishing marine reserves under the current Marine Reserves Act. This issue will be addressed by the Marine Reserves Bill introduced by my predecessor,” said Mr Carter.

The paper stressed the need for a renewed focus on freshwater conservation with one third of the 29 species of indigenous fish being classed as threatened species. Rivers, lakes and wetlands in lowland areas are under the greatest stress.

Mr Carter said one set of statistics that New Zealand should not be proud of was that we had 2400 threatened species with 770 species in the acutely and chronically threatened categories.

“Introduced pests together with habitat loss and degradation are the biggest problems facing indigenous species.”

The paper encouragingly reported that with habitat protection and intensive pest control rare species can recover. The increase in the kokako breeding population in “mainland islands” over the last decade is listed as one outstanding success story. The critical contribution made to the protection of native wildlife from the use of 1080 and other poisons in pest control is stressed in the briefing.

Other identified issues include:

the important role of national parks and reserves in attracting tourists to New Zealand and the growing pressure on conservation areas from increased visitor numbers; the benefits for conservation from integrated management frameworks and policies for biosecurity currently being developed under the Biosecurity Strategy; a growing interest and active participation in conservation amongst tangata whenua, landowners and the community generally.

“I am delighted to see that DoC is actively engaging with a range of local communities. Conservation is not just the responsibility of any one government agency – it is up to us all,” said Mr Carter.

Briefing paper available on http://www.doc.govt.nz/Whats-New/001~New-on-the-Site.asp.

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