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Forest and Bird ignores huge conservation progress

Forest and Bird ignores huge conservation progress

Criticisms of the Government's commitment to conservation by the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society are mean-spirited, Conservation Minister Chris Carter said today.

Responding to Forest and Bird comments that the Government was indifferent to the fate of threatened species such as kiwi, Mr Carter said the Labour-led Government was doing more for conservation than any other government in New Zealand's history.

"In our first year in office we adopted and funded the Biodiversity Strategy with a $187 million commitment over five years. As part of this, we set up with Forest and Bird's support five kiwi sanctuaries to ensure our national bird survived on the mainland."

The area of public conservation land under pest control was at record levels, as were efforts put into threatened species programmes, he said.

"It is an accepted role of lobby groups to agitate for more funding for their cause. But Forest and Bird seems unwilling to give any credit to the Government for transforming the Department of Conservation from a cinderella department into one that is better resourced today than it ever has been."

"My officials have worked hard in recent months to explain to Forest and Bird that pest control is a complex and developing science," Mr Carter said. "It is not simply a matter of spreading tonnes of poison across public conservation land."

DoC was a world leader in pest control and threatened species conservation, he said.

"It would be nice if Forest and Bird acknowledged this and that New Zealand faces one of the world's most serious animal pest and weed problems. Forest and Bird is ignoring good news, for example, goat control in Whanganui National Park is being extended dramatically to 30,000 ha."

Mr Carter said he had previously asked DoC to investigate Forest and Bird's proposals for blanket 1080 poison campaigns to protect at-risk forest wildlife. "My officials advise me that 1080 has an important role in wildlife protection but is unlikely to be a complete solution."

"I have instructed DoC to develop the approaches needed to protect key populations of at-risk species in key areas till we can rebuild their populations over wider areas, using new and more effective pest control technologies. We are doing this successfully with kiwi."

"I challenge Forest and Bird to work constructively with my department on the best ways to protect our biodiversity."

In 2005 the first five year-term of the Biodiversity Strategy ends, and the Government must decide future funding for biodiversity conservation, Mr Carter said. In doing so, it must balance conservation needs with other areas of increasing Government expenditure, such as health and essential infrastructure.

"If conservation is to continue to be well-funded, we need to demonstrate the effectiveness of current expenditure and that there is strong public support for conservation."

"This will not be achieved by rushing in now with costly and poorly-targeted stoat control operations involving blanket use of 1080, as Forest and Bird seem to be seeking."

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