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Ark priorities show more funds needed now

14 April 2004

Ark priorities show more funds needed now

Green MP Ian Ewen-Street is today welcoming the activation of a Doc anti-pest campaign in the region but says the fact that the Department has to prioritise which area to protect and is threatening aerial poison drops shows that much more funding is needed for such conservation work.

Minister of Conservation Chris Carter has announced that 'Operation Ark' would swing into action this year in three of its eleven target areas - two kakariki and mohua habitats in North Canterbury and a whio habitat in Fiordland. Environmentalists have questioned why a key mohua habitat in the Catlins that is also on the Ark list is not being prioritised and anti-1080 campaigners have opposed the potential use of the poison in the campaign.

"The mohua is the bird on our $100 bill, so there is an irony that Doc doesn't have the funds to include the mohua habitat in the Catlins in the first round of Operation Ark," said Mr Ewen-Street, the Green associate spokesperson on the Environment.

"If Doc's experts have identified eleven areas around the country needing this sort of intensive campaign against rats and stoats and their funding only covers three of them, there is an obvious shortfall now. Increasing the resources later is no use if these pests have already wiped the birds out.

"The Department should not have to choose between the Hurunui Valley and the Catlins, it should have the funds now to protect both.

"Furthermore, 1080 should not be used as an economy measure where more costly but less environmentally damaging techniques are likely to be successful. The Green position is that the aerial use of 1080 in remote areas is a vital tool but only as a means of absolute last resort. We hope that the otherwise positive Operation Ark does not perpetuate the often-inappropriate use of this poison.

"New Zealanders value their environment and are proud of our clean-green image internationally. But these are not givens, we have to put more conservation workers in the field just to maintain the conservation status quo, let alone increase the populations of endangered species," said Mr Ewen-Street.

ENDS

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