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Smith and Shirley misleading on Dobson proposal

Smith and Shirley misleading on Dobson proposal

Claims made by National MP Nick Smith and Act MP Ken Shirley about the Dobson Dam hydro project are misleading, Conservation Minister Chris Carter said today.

"Mr Shirley has accused me of double dealing for refusing to change the Conservation Act to allow a land swap in the Card Creek Ecological Area when other land swaps involving conservation land have been approved in the past.

"What Mr Shirley hasn't told the public is that the land swap in Bruce Bay that he is using as an example did not involve any 'specially protected areas', unlike the valley that is to be flooded in the Dobson proposal," Mr Carter said.

"The land the Department of Conservation gave away in Bruce Bay had been heavily affected by mining and was exchanged for an area of tall forest of significant ecological value.

"Land swaps are considered by the DoC where land of "stewardship' status is involved and there is a net gain for the conservation estate," Mr Carter said.

"The problem with a land swap in the Card Creek Ecological Area is that the law does not allow me to revoke the 'ecological area' status of the valley at the centre of the Dobson Dam proposal while it retains the ecological values for which it was set aside. This valley definitely does, it is of such a high status that it cannot be swapped or flooded without a change to the Conservation Act.

"Even if it could be swapped, the Dobson Dam proposal suggests destroying a very valuable piece of land for land of much lower value. Drowning a valley forest of kahikatea in return for a logged hill-top would be the equivalent of giving away gold for bronze."

Mr Carter said that Mr Smith's claim that the Card Creek valley to be flooded in the Dobson proposal was "mostly gorse" was laughable.

"Less than 10 per cent of the valley is gorse, most of it is regenerating kahikatea forest and that is precisely the reason most of the valley was protected by a National government in the first place.

"Mr Smith has claimed that I am some how misleading the public over the fact that law does not allow the Card Creek valley to flooded when the Government has a Reserves and Other Lands Disposal Bill before the House taking land out of reserves and national parks for roading and other public uses.

"Mr Smith knows this Bill is not a vehicle for revoking the protected areas status of land of significant conservation value. It deals only with small non-controversial parcels of land that do not have the same value as the Card Creek Ecological Area," Mr Carter said.

"It is important to remember in this debate that the Dobson Dam is not the only proposed hydro-scheme in the South Island. There are a string of other ideas under discussion that are beginning to emerge."

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