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Conservation shouldn't pay for Govt-owned forests

Conservation shouldn't pay for Govt-owned native forest

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said conservation funding for purchasing privately-owned land shouldn't be raided to buy 540 hectares of Mamaku native forest from a crown research institute.

Ms Fitzsimons has been trying for years to stop Forest Research Institute plans to sell the land for development. This morning on National Radio, the Minister in charge of FRI, Pete Hodgson, suggested that the Nature Heritage Fund, set up mainly to purchase and protect private land with important ecological values, could purchase the forest.

But Ms Fitzsimons said it would be an inappropriate use of that fund to spend it on buying land which is already publicly owned.

"The Government urgently needs to work out some way to stop this valuable habitat falling into the hands of private developers - but expecting the Nature Heritage Fund to pay for this it would be like robbing Peter to pay Paul."

Ms Fitzsimons said the Nature Heritage Fund has a limited budget.

"If a significant amount of money is spent on transferring ownership of these forest blocks from one public owner to another, then the Fund will have that much less money to buy privately owned land and protect it for future generations.

It is tragic that FRI no longer wants this forest for its original purpose - research into the use of native timbers for plantation forestry in New Zealand. There is a lot of interest from farm foresters and others in planting native species for timber.

"But if FRI is not interested in providing the research support for this, the land should simply pass to DOC.

"The Minister says he wants to protect FRI's balance sheet. What he doesn't say is that when a CRI makes a profit, as they are expected to do under their legislation, the Minister grabs it and puts it into industry development and venture capital.

"This proposal has the Nature Heritage Fund contributing to this goal."

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